Reviewed by: Christine Oka, Research & Instruction, Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA
The Journal of Urban Ecology is an open access journal published by Oxford University Press (OUP). The journal aims to cover all aspects of urban environments, such as climate, sustainability, soils, animals, ecosystems, green spaces, people’s use of the environment, planning, management and policy making. “This includes the biology of the organisms that inhabit urban areas, human social issues encountered within urban landscapes, and the diversity of ecosystem services.”
Articles reflect the ecological connections around us. Often, the small things can have a big impact. The latest addition to the second volume is the article, “Keeping it clean: bird bath hygiene in urban and rural areas.” The authors make an interesting observation about bird baths. “In a dry continent like Australia where the provision of water in bird baths is a common and popular practice, very little is known about it.” Studies have shown providing resources, such as water and food for birds helps “people to connect with nature in an urbanising world” and the connections are associated with human well-being. The downside--bird baths pose potential risks to the spread of major avian diseases, such as Trichomonosis, Salmonellosis and Psittacine Beak, and Feather Disease Virus. For the Bathing Birds Study, the authors “recruited citizen scientists from urban and rural regions . . . to monitor birds visiting their bird baths.” The participants were surveyed about the maintenance and cleaning of their bird baths. “As far as we are aware, this is the first study to describe bird bath maintenance protocols among a large sample of those who provide water for birds.”
From the birds to the bees. The authors of “The contribution of human foods to honey bee diets in a mid-sized metropolis” introduce their topic with a disturbing anecdote. “In 2010, Brooklyn beekeeper Cerise Mayo was surprised when she opened her hives and found combs filled with bright red honey. At first, Mayo thought her bees were foraging on a strange plant, possibly sumac, but eventually she tracked her bees to a maraschino cherry factory where they were collecting sugar syrup with Red Dye No. 40.” One often hears of foraging by wild animals as their natural habitat is overrun by development, but increasing urbanization can also affect the food supply for humans. “The expansion of urban areas has resulted in reduced foraging habitat for bees, while at the same time introducing new food sources, such as foods unintentionally provided by humans as litter or in waste containers. While human foods play an important role in the diets of other urban animals, the extent to which honey bees feed on these resources has not be well characterized.”
The articles are well-written and accessible to researchers as well as the general reader. There is a running theme with the articles in the Journal of Urban Ecology, the articles begin with a question about a small part of urban ecology and extend out (sometimes to rural ecology for comparative data) to the larger picture. Research on birds, bees, moths, and algae can reveal the effect of urbanization on these forms of life and help begin public policy discussions to improve the health and welfare of humans as well.