Ecosystems at the rural urban fringe
In these areas there are little ecological niches with its own micro climate so own types of plants which can grow.
On the rural side of the fringe there are activities such as farming and nature reserves etc. Whereas on the urban side there are a few gardens, fields derelict land etc located.
These areas can be protected as in the UK the greenbelt around major urban areas is protected from development to help reduce the amount of urban sprawl.
Contrary to popular belief, urban
environments are not devoid of
wildlife; in fact many towns and cities
contain a greater variety of species per
unit area than equivalent areas in the
countryside. The reasons for this are:
Urban areas contain lots of small scale,
human-made habitats, and
animals and plants have learnt to
adapt to these environments: birds
for example treat vertical walls
as cliffs and feed on discarded
Species have been introduced both
intentionally and accidentally.
Canals, railways and roads act as
corridors for seed dispersal, and
people also transport seed on the
soles of their shoes. Seed may also
escape from warehouses, or be
brought in within topsoil.
Unlike rural areas, urban
environments are unaffected
by agricultural sprays, and
consequently provide a refuge for
flora and fauna.
Factors influencing urban
Plants and animals living in urban
areas are influenced by a range of
Soils tend to be shallow, low in
organic matter and sometimes
polluted, although those in
allotments and gardens are deeper
and more fertile.
Large cities produce a ‘heat
island effect’ which reduces the
incidence of frost and therefore
benefits sensitive plant species.
Air pollution in cities adversely
affects species such as lichen.
Green spaces may be too small to
support viable plant and animal
Proximity to seed sources and
the length and degree of human
disturbance also influence the
nature of plant and animal
Types of urban habitats
Urban areas contain a variety of
different habitats, ranging from
relatively undisturbed patches of
woodland which have been enclosed
by development, to highly artificial
environments such as pavements and
The characteristics of some of the
more common types of urban habitat
are outlined below.
1. Derelict land
In summer, waste ground is often
covered with colourful, fast-growing,
highly productive plants such as
the butterfly bush and rosebay
willowherb. The butterfly bush
(Buddleia davidii), is a woody,
deciduous, perennial shrub which
produces lots of winged seed, easily
dispersed by the wind .
Its nectar attracts a variety of insects
and butterflies, including the red
admiral and small tortoiseshell. Its
leaves are eaten by caterpillars which
in turn are consumed by spiders
and ladybirds. The butterfly bush is
common in southern Britain, while
wetter wasteland sites in the west of
the country support giant hogweed
and Japanese knotweed. Rosebay
willowherb favours burnt sites, which
explains why it was widely seen