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      Estimating the potential biodiversity impact of redeveloping small urban spaces: the Natural History Museum’s grounds

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          Abstract

          Background

          With the increase in human population, and the growing realisation of the importance of urban biodiversity for human wellbeing, the ability to predict biodiversity loss or gain as a result of land use change within urban settings is important. Most models that link biodiversity and land use are at too coarse a scale for informing decisions, especially those related to planning applications. Using the grounds of the Natural History Museum, London, we show how methods used in global models can be applied to smaller spatial scales to inform urban planning.

          Methods

          Data were extracted from relevant primary literature where species richness had been recorded in more than one habitat type within an urban setting. As within-sample species richness will increase with habitat area, species richness estimates were also converted to species density using theory based on the species–area relationship. Mixed-effects models were used to model the impact on species richness and species density of different habitat types, and to estimate these metrics in the current grounds and under proposed plans for redevelopment. We compared effects of three assumptions on how within-sample diversity scales with habitat area as a sensitivity analysis. A pre-existing database recording plants within the grounds was also used to estimate changes in species composition across different habitats.

          Results

          Analysis estimated that the proposed plans would result in an increase of average biodiversity of between 11.2% (when species density was modelled) and 14.1% (when within-sample species richness was modelled). Plant community composition was relatively similar between the habitats currently within the grounds.

          Discussion

          The proposed plans for change in the NHM grounds are estimated to result in a net gain in average biodiversity, through increased number and extent of high-diversity habitats. In future, our method could be improved by incorporating purposefully collected ecological survey data (if resources permit) and by expanding the data sufficiently to allow modelling of the temporal dynamics of biodiversity change after habitat disturbance and creation. Even in its current form, the method produces transparent quantitative estimates, grounded in ecological data and theory, which can be used to inform relatively small scale planning decisions.

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          Most cited references74

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          Quantifying biodiversity: procedures and pitfalls in the measurement and comparison of species richness

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            Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity.

            Human-driven land-use changes increasingly threaten biodiversity, particularly in tropical forests where both species diversity and human pressures on natural environments are high. The rapid conversion of tropical forests for agriculture, timber production and other uses has generated vast, human-dominated landscapes with potentially dire consequences for tropical biodiversity. Today, few truly undisturbed tropical forests exist, whereas those degraded by repeated logging and fires, as well as secondary and plantation forests, are rapidly expanding. Here we provide a global assessment of the impact of disturbance and land conversion on biodiversity in tropical forests using a meta-analysis of 138 studies. We analysed 2,220 pairwise comparisons of biodiversity values in primary forests (with little or no human disturbance) and disturbed forests. We found that biodiversity values were substantially lower in degraded forests, but that this varied considerably by geographic region, taxonomic group, ecological metric and disturbance type. Even after partly accounting for confounding colonization and succession effects due to the composition of surrounding habitats, isolation and time since disturbance, we find that most forms of forest degradation have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on tropical biodiversity. Our results clearly indicate that when it comes to maintaining tropical biodiversity, there is no substitute for primary forests.
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              Effects of urbanization on species richness: A review of plants and animals

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                PeerJ
                PeerJ
                peerj
                peerj
                PeerJ
                PeerJ Inc. (San Francisco, USA )
                2167-8359
                30 October 2017
                2017
                : 5
                : e3914
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London , London, United Kingdom
                [2 ]Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London , London, United Kingdom
                [3 ]German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig , Leipzig, Germany
                [4 ]Leipzig Universität , Leipzig, Germany
                Article
                3914
                10.7717/peerj.3914
                5667537
                a7119116-cad7-4c6b-84f3-22d81e1a3d9f
                ©2017 Phillips et al.

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, reproduction and adaptation in any medium and for any purpose provided that it is properly attributed. For attribution, the original author(s), title, publication source (PeerJ) and either DOI or URL of the article must be cited.

                History
                : 17 October 2016
                : 21 September 2017
                Funding
                Funded by: Natural History Museum
                Funded by: Hans Rausing Scholarship
                Funded by: NERC
                Award ID: NE/J011193/2
                This work was funded by the Natural History Museum in relation to their renovation of their grounds. Helen R.P. Phillips was supported by a Hans Rausing Scholarship. Andy Purvis was supported by NERC (grant NE/J011193/2). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Biodiversity
                Conservation Biology
                Biosphere Interactions
                Natural Resource Management

                species–area relationship,habitat redevelopment,biodiversity value,habitat loss,species density

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