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HELICITY: Evolution of correlated traits in response to city life: helicid snails as windows on the consequences of urban history

Project description

Exploring evolution in response to human-caused environmental changes

What are the ecological consequences of evolution in response to urbanisation? Can evolution explain why urbanisation causes population decline in some species but not in others? The EU-funded HELICITY project will answer these questions. By considering the often-neglected history of the urbanisation process, it will study how urbanisation shapes multivariate phenotypic evolution. The project will use snails as models and combine advances in small animal tracking, statistical analysis, and data science with the latest evolutionary ecology. The findings will shed light on the mechanisms behind observed changes as well as the potential consequences for relevant aspects of ecosystem functioning.

Objective

Urbanization is one of the most dramatic land-use changes caused by humans, combining habitat fragmentation and loss, pollutions and increased temperature. While it causes numerous population declines in many species, others persist or even thrive in cities, possibly through evolutionary changes. In this project, I will study how urbanization shapes multivariate phenotypic evolution in such an organism, including not only life-history traits, movement strategies/space use… but their association into integrated phenotypes. As a central point, I will explicitly consider the oft-neglected temporal heterogeneity/ history of the urbanization process, comparing new and older urban neighbourhoods to see under which conditions organisms can adapt to city life fast enough. Using snails as models, this Action will combine advances in small animal tracking, statistical analysis and data science with state-of-the-art evolutionary ecology, to not only explore the mechanisms behind observed changes, but also potential consequences for relevant aspects of ecosystem functioning. This project will increase our understanding of the ecological consequences of evolution in response to human-caused environmental changes, helping fill major knowledge gaps noted by the IPBES. Through outreach, it will increase community engagement with (urban) biodiversity. Finally, by merging two of my long-standing research lines in a common, integrated project, through the acquisition of new scientific skills and training in project management, it will favour my establishment as an independent leader in the field.

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Coordinator

UNIVERSITEIT GENT
Net EU contribution
€ 166 320,00
Address
Sint pietersnieuwstraat 25
9000 Gent
Belgium

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Region
Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00