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UrbPOLS Report Summary

Project ID: 701747
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - UrbPOLS (Assessing urban impacts on wildlife using the pace-of-life framework)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2018-06-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Problem description:
It is commonly observed that birds inhabiting cities live longer, but have lower annual reproduction, than their rural counterparts. Reduced reproductive output has been explained by unsuitable urban living conditions, but this does not explain why city birds have greater survival. Could it be adaptive for birds to have lower reproductive success in the cities because they have more years to breed? Are there other adaptive life-history differences between urban and rural populations? If so, could this also explain urban-rural differences in parasite resistance (invest more into immune response if you expect to live longer?), coloration (invest less in sexual signals if you can count on more than one breeding season), and oxidative stress resistance (as a mechanism of aging)? Such differences in life-history traits may be understood in the context of a pace-of-life syndrome (POLS). In other words, urban and rural birds may have equal lifetime fitness, but rural birds breed fast and die early whereas urban birds (due to shifts in resources and other selection pressures) breed slow and die late.

The project will help to understand the effect of urbanization on wild bird communities and better our understanding of urbanization as an evolutionary process.

1. Publish a meta-analysis on studies on urbanization of birds, focusing on the traits related to pace-of-life
2. Conduct a field project in Phoenix metropolitan area to analyse the effect of urbnization on the survival, reproductive success, and physiology of house finches.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Meta-analysis has been conducted and published.
Field work has been completed.
Several side projects stemming from the main idea of the project have been developed in collaboration with the members of the outgoing host lab.

Main results achieved so far:
- A meta-analysis article was published in Global Changes Biology, showing that birds living in the cities have generally higher survival and smaller clutch size. These findings support the idea of an adaptive slower pace-of-life for populations living in urban habitats.
- An article has been published in Science of Nature, showing that the drab coloration of plumage that is often found in urban birds compared to rural birds might be linked to digestion efficiency.
- A study has been conducted to study the effects of light pollution, a common problem in urban areas, on the digestion efficiency of developing birds. This study indicated that digestion is indeed less efficient when the birds are exposed to light at night. These results will be published in the following months.
- An ideas article has been published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, proposing the idea that antropogenic changes in the environment, including changes in urban areas, could be causing cancer also in wild animals.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The meta-analysis article has been published in a high-impact journal (Global Change Biology) and has been already cited several times. The ideas of the project have been introduced in two major international conferences (Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting in San Francisco, Socitey of Experimental Biology (SEB) meeting in Florence, Italy).
During the first two years of the project, the PI has coauthored and published 8 articles in international peer-reviewed journals. Some of these studies have also been widely covered in media.
The final year of the project will focus on data analysis and publication of the articles based on the project and side-projects that have emerged through collaborations established during the outgoing phase.

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