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Urban Evolutionary Biology$
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Marta Szulkin, Jason Munshi-South, and Anne Charmantier

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780198836841

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198836841.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 28 November 2021

Sidewalk Plants as a Model for Studying Adaptation to Urban Environments

Sidewalk Plants as a Model for Studying Adaptation to Urban Environments

(p.130) Chapter 8 Sidewalk Plants as a Model for Studying Adaptation to Urban Environments
Urban Evolutionary Biology

Pierre Olivier Cheptou

Susan C. Lambrecht

Oxford University Press

As a widespread, human-altered habitat, the urban environment represents a potentially interesting model for evolutionary ecologists to study contemporary adaptation to global change. In cities, plants are often relegated to small, isolated patches of soil among a concrete matrix, which establishes a highly fragmented habitat. Small patches around planted trees on pavements (sidewalks) are colonized by wild plants and exemplify a typical, fragmented urban habitat. These patches also represent a geometrical and regular habitat for studying plant adaptation to fragmentation. Based on a 10-year research programme in Mediterranean France (Montpellier), the chapter discusses how an annual weed, Crepis sancta (hawksbeard, Asteraceae), has adapted to urban patches. While the most obvious traits expected to respond to fragmentation are seed dispersal traits, the authors present results showing how urban patches have actually selected for a battery of life-history and ecophysiological traits. The striking result is that adaptation is rapid in urban environments and can be detected in fewer than fifteen generations. The authors’ studies reveal that, beyond the focal sidewalk patchy populations, adaptations to urban environments may be diverse as a result of the variety of habitats within cities. They discuss how adaptation to urban fragmentation can be characterized and how the comparison between rural and urban populations provides a powerful method to study how plants adapt to various facets of global change. Overall, urban environments have proved to be an opportune and relevant ecological model for studying contemporary adaptation.

Keywords:   Rapid adaptation, plant, urban fragmentation, dispersal, physiology

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