What is urban ecology?

Urban ecology is the study of relationships between living organisms, each other and their surroundings in the urban environment. Urban ecology is a growing area of ecological interest as more than 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas. As we live longer and have more babies, our overpopulation is driving the need for more and more infrastructure to accommodate us. The needs of the local fauna and flora are often not considered. Education around urban conservation is important and as scientists we need to provide information on how to do this. For example making a garden more wildlife-friendly will help attract a range of birds as well as other forms of wildlife. Providing water in different spots and at different heights when water is scarce can create an oases for lizards, echidnas, kangaroos and wallabies. 

For wildlife, urban areas are challenging environments to live in, as they are dramatically different from native habitat. How people encounter and interact with animals can impact their willingness to share their space. This is why it is so important to motivate people to learn about the nature around them so they can form positive connections. Urban ecology is starting to combine natural and social science to understand what drives people to interact with nature. 

Providing food for birds fosters an important connection to nature for people in urban areas. However, a person’s decision not to feed birds can be environmentally motivated by the belief that they are not helping birds, despite the absence of scientific evidence to support this. What has been confirmed is that bird feeding is an important activity for people seeking to connect with urbanised nature. This is especially relevant as research is starting to reveal the importance of a daily connection with nature to ensuring good mental health.