Urban Biodiversity: Patterns, Processes and Implications for Conservation

Abstract

As the world becomes increasingly urbanised, more and more species either reside in cities, suburbs and exurbs or are influenced by their growth. On the bases of our literature survey, species richness and diversity of animals, especially vertebrate animals, and plants usually declines in cities. However, contrary to the prevailing notion that bird abundances usually increase in cities, studies reporting increases or decreases of bird abundances are about equal. The mechanisms underlying patterns of urban biodiversity are complex and not well‐understood. Explanations for the observed changes in species diversity and composition in cities focus on local processes involving species responses to local abiotic environmental factors and interactions with other species and regional processes, such as dispersal. Recently, metacommunity theory has been applied to urban habitats to explore the relative importance of local and regional processes. This theory also provides insights into how biodiversity can be maintained and promoted in urban areas.

Key Concepts:

  • Urbanisation creates highly fragmented, heterogeneous and altered environments that act as selective filters for urban organisms and species.

  • Urbanisation is often associated with declines in animal and plant richness, abundance and diversity.

  • Studies showing increases or decreases in urban bird abundances are about equal, contrary to conventional wisdom of increased bird abundances in cities.

  • Various ecological concepts have been applied to explain urban biodiversity, including disturbance and productivity gradient hypotheses and island biogeography theory.

  • Metacommunity theory has been used recently to ascertain relative contributions of local and regional processes to urban biodiversity.

  • Understanding local and regional processes leads to better insights in conserving and promoting urban biodiversity.

  • Conservation efforts depend on connections to nature; therefore, it is important to engage city‐dwellers with their urban biotas.

Keywords: biodiversity; cities; conservation; metacommunity theory; socioecology; species richness; urbanisation

Figure 1.

The effects of urbanisation on (a) diversity (as measured by a diversity index such as the Shannon–Weiner index), (b) abundance (number of individuals), (c) species richness of organisms separated by taxa. Number of studies is in parentheses.

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Faeth, Stanley H, Saari, Susanna, and Bang, Christofer(Jul 2012) Urban Biodiversity: Patterns, Processes and Implications for Conservation. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023572]