Urban wildlife ecology: How do animals respond to novel environments?

Urban environments provide new challenges to wildlife but also new opportunities. We study how our wild housemates perform in urban environments, what they use and need.

Project details
Duration: 09/2017 - 08/2020
Third-party funded: yes
Involved Department(s): Dept Ecological Dynamics
Leibniz-IZW Project Leader(s): Stephanie Kramer-Schadt (Dept Ecological Dynamics), Dr. Ortmann, Sylvia (Dept Evolutionary Ecology)
Leibniz-IZW Project Team:

Aimara Planillo, Joulie Louvrier, Robert Hagen, Konstantin Börner (all: Dept Ecological Dynamics), Carolin Scholz, Sophia Kimmig (all: Dept Ecological Dynamics, Dept Evolutionary Ecology), Camila Mazzoni (Dept Evolutinary Genetics)

Consortium Partner(s): Berlin-Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB)
Current Funding Organisation: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Research Foci:

Understanding traits and evolutionary adaptations
Understanding the environmental context
Developing theories, methods, and tools


The increasing urbanization poses risks but also new opportunities for wildlife. We investigate how species cope with the everyday challenges related to urbanization. To do so it is essential to understand species distributions as these are largely driven by their habitat associations and their response to environmental or anthropogenic factors. Therefore, we evaluate how anthropogenic drivers shape the assembly and dynamics of mammalian communities at different spatiotemporal scales in urban and rural areas. 

We focus on species that have adapted to both these human dominated habitats very well (e.g. wild boar Sus scrofa, red fox Vulpes vulpes). We try to shed light on their secret of success by integrating movement ecology, foraging strategies and diseases (parasites and microbiomes) of these successful species in our studies. By analysing the spatial factors and species interactions that underlie their distributions along a rural to urban gradient we can make inference on their behavioural plasticity and adaptability.

The project is conducted in cooperation with the Leibniz-IZW project “WTimpact”.

Selected Publications

Scholz C, Firozpoor J, Kramer-Schadt S, Gras P, Schulze C, Kimmig S, Voigt CC, Ortmann S (2020): Individual dietary specialization in a generalistic predator: a stable isotope analysis of urban and rural red foxes. Ecology and Evolution 10: 8855-8870

Gras P, Knuth S, Börner K, Marescot L, Benhaiem S, Aue A, Wittstatt U, Kleinschmit B, Kramer-Schadt S (2018): Landscape structure affects risk of canine distemper in urban wildlife. FRONT ECOL EVOL 6, 136. doi:10.3389/fevo.2018.00136.

Kimmig SE, Beninde J, Brandt, M, Schleimer A, Kramer-Schadt S, Hofer H, Boerner K, Schulze C, Wittstatt U, Heddergott M, Halczok T, Staubach C, Frantz A (2020): Beyond the landscape: Resistance modelling infers physical and behavioural gene flow barriers to a mobile carnivore across a metropolitan area. MOL ECOL. 00, 1– 19. doi:10.1111/mec.15345

Stillfried M, Gras P, Börner K, Göritz F, Painer J, Röllig K, Wenzler M, Hofer H, Ortmann S, Kramer-Schadt S (2017): Secrets of success in a landscape of fear: Urban wild boar adjust risk perception and tolerate disturbance. FRONT ECOL EVOL 5, 157. doi:10.3389/fevo.2017.00157.

Stillfried M, Fickel J, Börner K, Wittstatt U, Heddergott M, Ortmann S, Kramer-Schadt S, Frantz AC (2017): Urban wild boar (Sus scrofa) population structure: Do cities represent sources, sinks or isolated islands? J APPL ECOL 54, 272–281. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12756.