Land-sharing vs. land-sparing urban development modulate predator-prey interactions in Europe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

  • Jukka Suhonen
  • Yanina Benedetti
  • Mario Diaz
  • Federico Morelli
  • Tomás Pérez-Contreras
  • Enrique Rubio
  • Philipp Sprau
  • Piotr Tryjanowski
  • Juan Diego Ibáñez-Álamo


Urban areas are expanding globally as a consequence of human population increases, with overall negative effects on biodiversity. To prevent the further loss of biodiversity, it is urgent to understand the mechanisms behind this loss to develop evidence-based sustainable solutions to preserve biodiversity in urban landscapes. The two extreme urban development types along a continuum, land-sparing (large, continuous green areas and high-density housing) and land-sharing (small, fragmented green areas and low-density housing) have been the recent focus of debates regarding the pattern of urban development. However, in this context, there is no information on the mechanisms behind the observed biodiversity changes. One of the main mechanisms proposed to explain urban biodiversity loss is the alteration of predator-prey interactions. Using ground nesting birds as a model system and data from nine European cities, we experimentally tested the effects of these two extreme urban development types on artificial ground nest survival and whether nest survival correlates with the local abundance of ground-nesting birds and their nest predators. Nest survival (n = 554) was lower in land-sharing than in land-sparing urban areas. Nest survival decreased with increasing numbers of local predators (cats and corvids) and with nest visibility. Correspondingly, relative abundance of ground nesting birds was greater in land-sparing than in land-sharing urban areas, though overall bird diversity was unaffected by the pattern of urban development. We provide the first evidence that predator-prey interactions differ between the two extreme urban development types. Changing interactions may explain the higher proportion of ground-nesting birds in land-sparing areas, and suggest a limitation of the land-sharing model. Nest predator control and the provision of more green-covered urban habitats may also improve conservation of sensitive birds in cities. Our findings provide information on how to further expand our cities without severe loss of urban-sensitive species and give support for land-sparing over land-sharing urban development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Nov 2019
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed