Anthropogenic Food Inputs and the Nutritional Ecology of Urban Arthropods

Research | Urban Ecology

Humans throw out nearly 1 billion metric tons of food scraps each year. Most of this waste accumulates in landfills, generating ~125m3 per metric ton in gasses, such as Methane and Carbon Dioxide, which are major contributors to global climate change. Therefore, anything urban arthropods can do to remove food scraps before they get to landfills is an important ecosystem service. These food scraps also represent a massive resource for urban arthropod communities, but we have a poor understanding of how arthropods exploit these resources and how switching to a diet of human foods alters other aspects of arthropod diets. We are examining food-mediated interactions between urban humans and arthropods. Current topics include: assessing the proportion of human foods in arthropod diets, interactions between arthropod use of artificial sugars and immune function, and the effects of human resource pulses on predator-prey interactions and food preferences of arthropods in urban environments.


Amy Savage, Post-doc
Clint Penick, Post-doc
Elsa Younsteadt, Research Associate
DeAnna Beasley, Post-doc

Project Publications

Youngsteadt, E., Henderson, R. C., Savage, A. M., Ernst, A. F., Dunn, R. R. and Frank, S. D. (2014), Habitat and species identity, not diversity, predict the extent of refuse consumption by urban arthropods. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12791. View PDF.

In the Press