Urban forest invertebrates: how they shape and respond to the urban environment

D. Johan Kotze*, Elizabeth C. Lowe, J. Scott MacIvor, Alessandro Ossola, Briony A. Norton, Dieter F. Hochuli, Luis Mata, Marco Moretti, Sara A. Gagné, I. Tanya Handa, Therésa M. Jones, Caragh G. Threlfall, Amy K. Hahs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Invertebrates comprise the most diversified animal group on Earth. Due to their long evolutionary history and small size, invertebrates occupy a remarkable range of ecological niches, and play an important role as “ecosystem engineers” by structuring networks of mutualistic and antagonistic ecological interactions in almost all terrestrial ecosystems. Urban forests provide critical ecosystem services to humans, and, as in other systems, invertebrates are central to structuring and maintaining the functioning of urban forests. Identifying the role of invertebrates in urban forests can help elucidate their importance to practitioners and the public, not only to preserve biodiversity in urban environments, but also to make the public aware of their functional importance in maintaining healthy greenspaces. In this review, we examine the multiple functional roles that invertebrates play in urban forests that contribute to ecosystem service provisioning, including pollination, predation, herbivory, seed and microorganism dispersal and organic matter decomposition, but also those that lead to disservices, primarily from a public health perspective, e.g., transmission of invertebrate-borne diseases. We then identify a number of ecological filters that structure urban forest invertebrate communities, such as changes in habitat structure, increased landscape imperviousness, microclimatic changes and pollution. We also discuss the complexity of ways that forest invertebrates respond to urbanisation, including acclimation, local extinction and evolution. Finally, we present management recommendations to support and conserve viable and diverse urban forest invertebrate populations into the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1589-1609
Number of pages21
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number6
Early online date19 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Arachnids
  • Biodiversity
  • Disturbance
  • Ecosystem services
  • Functional groups
  • Insects
  • Life cycle
  • Life stages
  • Pollution
  • Ecological networks
  • Urban ecology


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