Many people are concerned with climate change and its consequences. Children, adolescents, and young adults, in particular, feel exposed to an already acute and future problem, the extent of which neither they nor science fully understands. To develop solutions, we need to understand the consequences and impacts of changing climate and habitats. Researchers have a responsibility to include the next generations in the data collection process, as climate change is a multi-generational phenomenon.
In Project BUG (Biodiversity along Urban Gradients), in Germany known as MikroSafari, we are researching the effects of climate change and urbanization on the species composition of insects and other small animals. Why we focus on cities is quite simple to answer. More than half of all people live in cities, and by 2030, compared to 2000, urban areas are expected to increase by a factor of three. Many city-dwellers are particularly affected by climate change due to the urban heat-island effect. The closer one gets to the city center, the higher the average temperature, sometimes with a difference of up to 10° C compared to surrounding natural habitats.
Together with schools across three cities in Germany (Berlin, Leipzig and Halle), we are running pitfall trap and baiting experiments across the heat-island gradient. In doing so, we want to find out how the diversity and community composition of soil animals changes with increasing average temperature as well as increasing urbanization
Cities as an ideal climate laboratory:
In this way, we use the city as a kind of simulation of climate change, where we can see which species are tolerant of increased average temperature and which species will disappear. With an expected temperature increase of 1.5 °C between the years 2030 and 2052, this is valuable information to which we can then act accordingly. Ants, snails, beetles, spiders, and many other small animals are important parts of our ecosystem and perform tasks such as composting, pollination, food supply and much more. How they react to climate change may have consequences for us humans as well.
Creating knowledge together:
As mentioned above, we want to engage children in the scientific process. Therefore, we are establishing partnerships with various schools in the cities of Berlin, Halle and Leipzig, and want to conduct our experiment together with the students. We want to do research together with the younger generation in this citizen science project to understand the effects of climate change. By doing so, we may be able to start the conversation on what future biodiversity-friendly and climate-resilient cities may look like.
For more information about the project, visit www.mikrosafari.de.