Systemic racism alters wildlife genetic diversity

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Chloé Schmidt , Colin Garroway


Humans are the defining feature of urban ecosystems. In the United States, systemic racism has had lasting effects on the structure of cities, specifically due to government-mandated “redlining” policies that produced racially segregated neighborhoods that persist today. However, it is not known whether varying habitat structure and natural resource availability associated with racial segregation affects the demographics and evolution of urban wildlife populations. We repurposed public nuclear genetic data from 7,698 individuals from 39 terrestrial vertebrate species sampled in 268 urban locations and found patterns of reduced genetic diversity due to low population sizes and decreased connectivity in neighborhoods with fewer white residents. This suggests that systemic racism alters the demography of urban wildlife populations in ways that limit population sizes and negatively affects their chances of persistence. Limited capacity to support large, well-connected wildlife populations reduces access to nature and builds on existing environmental inequities shouldered by predominantly non-white neighborhoods.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


effective population size, Human Footprint Index, redlining, urban evolution


Published: 2022-02-19 07:24


CC-By Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Additional Metadata

Data and Code Availability Statement:
All data are open source; synthesized data will be made available upon acceptance.