Trophic dynamics in urban communities

Stanley H. Faeth, Paige S. Warren, Eyal Shochat, Wendy A. Marussich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

362 Scopus citations


Human activities dramatically change the abundance, diversity, and composition of species. However, little is known about how the most intense human activity, urbanization, alters food webs and trophic structure in biological communities. Studies of the Phoenix area, situated amid the Sonoran Desert, reveal some surprising alterations in the control of trophic dynamics. Species composition is radically altered, and resource subsidies increase and stabilize productivity. Changes in productivity dampen seasonal and yearly fluctuations in species diversity, elevate abundances, and alter feeding behaviors of some key urban species. In urban systems - in contrast to the trophic systems in outlying deserts, which are dominated by limiting resources - predation by birds becomes the dominant force controlling arthropods on plants. Reduced predation risk elevates the abundance of urban birds and alters their foraging behavior such that they exert increased top-down effects on arthropods. Shifts in control of food web dynamics are probably common in urban ecosystems, and are influenced by complex human social processes and feedbacks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-407
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Community
  • Food webs
  • Species composition
  • Trophic dynamics
  • Urban ecosystems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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