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July 1, 2022

The Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences of Systemic Racism in Urban Environments

Schell, Christopher J.; Dyson, Karen; Fuentes, Tracy L.; Des Roches, Simone; Harris, Nyeema C.; Miller, Danica Sterud; Woelfle-Erskine, Cleo A.; Lambert, Max R. (2020). The Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences of Systemic Racism in Urban Environments. Science, 369(6510), 1446.

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Urban areas are dynamic ecological systems defined by interdependent biological, physical, and social components. The emergent structure and heterogeneity of urban landscapes drives biotic outcomes in these areas, and such spatial patterns are often attributed to the unequal stratification of wealth and power in human societies. Despite these patterns, few studies have effectively considered structural inequalities as drivers of ecological and evolutionary outcomes and have instead focused on indicator variables such as neighborhood wealth. In this analysis, we explicitly integrate ecology, evolution, and social processes to emphasize the relationships that bind social inequities-specifically racism-and biological change in urbanized landscapes. We draw on existing research to link racist practices, including residential segregation, to the heterogeneous patterns of flora and fauna observed by urban ecologists. In the future, urban ecology and evolution researchers must consider how systems of racial oppression affect the environmental factors that drive biological change in cities. Conceptual integration of the social and ecological sciences has amassed considerable scholarship in urban ecology over the past few decades, providing a solid foundation for incorporating environmental justice scholarship into urban ecological and evolutionary research. Such an undertaking is necessary to deconstruct urbanization's biophysical patterns and processes, inform equitable and anti-racist initiatives promoting justice in urban conservation, and strengthen community resilience to global environmental change.


New-york; Climate-change; Land-cover; Socioeconomic-status; Ecosystem Services; Oxidative Stress; Green Spaces; Gene Flow; Justice; Cities