Event 2: The impact of World War II on urban ecology

During World War II, bombing of towns and cities resulted in a variety of alien plants appearing in city centers. Bombed sites became important in the development of studies of urban flora. Less than three years after the Blitz, Salisbury (1943) described the plants that colonized the ruined houses in London. Across many cities the changes that followed war damage gave rise to studies of the flora and fauna of derelict sites (Erkamo 1943; Balke 1944; Lousley 1944; Burges and Andrews 1947; Scholz 1960; Pfeiffer 1957). The warmer and drier conditions of urban dereliction allowed many previously rare plants to become permanent members of the urban flora in war-damaged European cities. In Germany, in the aftermath of the war, many accounts of the vegetation of bomb sites and rubble in cities such Bremen, Wurzburg, Munich, and Stuttgart appeared by the early 1950s (Lachmund 2003). In London, annual monitoring of bomb sites by members of the London Natural History Society provided a detailed record of successional changes from 1945 to 1957 ([ones 1958), which emphasizes the important contribution made by amateur natural history studies to our understanding of urban ecology.

The 1939—45 war had many legacies. It prompted new visions of cities, new towns and national park movements, and greater attention to a good standard of living for all, typified by ideas such as the welfare state. In the Netherlands much work was done to promote new ecological landscapes as part of post-war reconstruction of towns and cities (Ruff 1979, 1987). School nature gardens, city farms, nature parks, and more extensive naturalistic landscapes were all introduced in an attempt to create more livable communities, where people could have direct links with nature in their local neighborhood. These were to have a major influence on the way urban wildlife conservation developed in the UK and elsewhere.

Understanding of urban flora and fauna was greatly helped by the appearance of London's Natural History (Fitter 1945). This brought together the evolution of the city and the development of the flora and fauna in different urban habitats. It remains a good introduction to a city’s urban ecology. In 1950, the natural regeneration of Birmingham’s derelict industrial land gained a place in the handbook produced for the annual meeting of the British Association (Rees and Skelding 1950). Gradually other studies of individual cities appeared, each showing the diversity of habitats and wildlife in cities such as Paris (Jovet 1954), New York (Kieran 1959), Vienna (Kiihnelt 1955; Schweiger 1962), Saarbrücken (Müller 1972), Brussels (Duvigneaud 1974), Berlin (Kunick 1974), London (Burton 1974), and Birmingham (Teagle 1978).

In 1957, a young botanist, Herbert Sukopp, published an inventory of wild plant species that had been newly found in West Berlin and its immediate surroundings since 1945 (Lachmund 2013). Most of the new findings were in the disturbed areas and rubble of the central city. As in London the highly detailed recording of the locations of new plants enabled repeated observations in subsequent years, leading to greater understanding of urban plant ecology. It also provided a firm basis for the conservation of a range of valuable habitats in Berlin, including floristically rich bomb sites and important wetlands. Sukopp went on to become a world leader in urban ecology' and its application to city planning (Sukopp et al. 1995). He established the Institute of Ecology at the Technical University in Berlin, initially concentrating on the phytosociology' of urban areas, and later encompassing almost all aspects of urban plant ecology. Habitat mapping was carried out for the whole of West Berlin and an extremely detailed strategic plan for nature conservation was adopted in 1979 (Henke and Sukopp 1986). Not only was Berlin the first city to have such a plan, but it was supported by an immense amount of ecological information which has provided major advances in our understanding of urban ecology. Sukopp’s intensive scientific studies, and the associated use of science in making the case for conservation, showed the importance of urban ecology and its relevance to improving the quality of life in cities (Sukopp and Werner 1982). At the Institute of Zoology' in Warsaw a team of 36 specialists carried out long-term studies of the fauna of Warsaw and other cities from 1974 to 1990, with an emphasis on terrestrial invertebrates and birds (Luniak 1990, 2008).

For some the end of World War II meant continued disturbance. In China, this culminated with the Revolution of 1949. After the Revolution large efforts were made to improve the environment, especially through tree planting. At the time of the Revolution, Guangzhou had only 5 ha of parks; by 1979 it had 161 ha of parks and gardens. The number of trees in Nanjing increased from 2000 to 20,000 in the same 30 years (Hoa 1981). Historically, Beijing had many gardens and tree-lined streets, but since 1949, the city has grown enormously. Nevertheless, the total area of public greenspace grew by 250 percent between 1949 and 1986 (Office of the Capital Afforestation Commission 1986).

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