MINI-REVIEW: Habitat analogues for reconciliation ecology in urban and industrial environments


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1. Current views of anthropogenic environments emphasize the extreme novelty of urban and industrial ecosystems. Proponents of reconciliation ecology argue that we need to use such habitats to conserve biodiversity, given the inadequacy of natural reserve systems.

2. Some of the harshest anthropogenic ecosystems may be able to support indigenous biodiversity due to their structural or functional resemblance to natural ecosystems, habitats, or microsites that may be present in the region but not part of the historic ecosystem on a particular site. Here we review recent work that evaluates similarities between urban and industrial ecosystems and natural analogues, and explore the potential for these in reconciliation ecology.

3. We find that artificial habitats represent a gradient of ecological novelty which may be independent of the degree of human influence. While hard-surfaced habitats such as walls and quarries are the most investigated artificial analogues (of natural rock pavements and cliffs), there are many other examples spanning a range of habitats in both terrestrial and marine settings. Analogous ecosystems may be present in the region but limits to dispersal can prevent appropriate species from reaching urban or industrial sites, and small differences in abiotic conditions can sometimes prevent colonization by native biota in otherwise similar artificial habitats. We suggest that a search for habitat analogues represents an important principle to guide reconciliation ecology in urban and industrial lands. In constrast, analogous ecosystems may also support pest species that exploit the similarities between anthropogenic habitats and their ancestral habitats.

4.Synthesis and applications. Identifying analogous habitats and ecosystems could enhance biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in anthropogenic environments. Abiotic and biotic differences between artificial analogues and natural systems can be frequently overcome by ecological engineering to make the environment more suitable for native biodiversity, and/or assisted dispersal to allow suitable native organisms to reach appropriate sites within artificial ecosystems. Altering some habitats to become less analogous may help reduce impacts of pest species in urban and industrial areas.