Downtown diet: a global meta-analysis of increased urbanization on the diets of vertebrate predators

Nyeema Harris and 7 other contributors

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    Predation is a fundamental ecological process that shapes communities and drives evolutionary dynamics. As the world rapidly urbanizes, it is critical to understand how human perturbations alter predation and meat consumption across taxa. We conducted a meta-analysis to quantify the effects of urban environments on three components of trophic ecology in predators: dietary species richness, dietary evenness and stable isotopic ratios (IRs) (delta C-13 and delta N-15 IR). We evaluated whether the intensity of anthropogenic pressure, using the human footprint index (HFI), explained variation in effect sizes of dietary attributes using a meta-regression. We calculated Hedges' g effect sizes from 44 studies including 11 986 samples across 40 predatory species in 39 cities globally. The direction and magnitude of effect sizes varied among predator taxa with reptilian diets exhibiting the most sensitivity to urbanization. Effect sizes revealed that predators in cities had comparable diet richness, evenness and nitrogen ratios, though carbon IRs were more enriched in cities. We found that neither the 1993 nor 2009 HFI editions explained effect size variation. Our study provides, to our knowledge, the first assessment of how urbanization has perturbed predator-prey interactions for multiple taxa at a global scale. We conclude that the functional role of predators is conserved in cities and urbanization does not inherently relax predation, despite diets broadening to include anthropogenic food sources such as sugar, wheat and corn.