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      Advancing Urban Ecology toward a Science of Cities

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          A global analysis of the impacts of urbanization on bird and plant diversity reveals key anthropogenic drivers.

          Urbanization contributes to the loss of the world's biodiversity and the homogenization of its biota. However, comparative studies of urban biodiversity leading to robust generalities of the status and drivers of biodiversity in cities at the global scale are lacking. Here, we compiled the largest global dataset to date of two diverse taxa in cities: birds (54 cities) and plants (110 cities). We found that the majority of urban bird and plant species are native in the world's cities. Few plants and birds are cosmopolitan, the most common being Columba livia and Poa annua. The density of bird and plant species (the number of species per km(2)) has declined substantially: only 8% of native bird and 25% of native plant species are currently present compared with estimates of non-urban density of species. The current density of species in cities and the loss in density of species was best explained by anthropogenic features (landcover, city age) rather than by non-anthropogenic factors (geography, climate, topography). As urbanization continues to expand, efforts directed towards the conservation of intact vegetation within urban landscapes could support higher concentrations of both bird and plant species. Despite declines in the density of species, cities still retain endemic native species, thus providing opportunities for regional and global biodiversity conservation, restoration and education.
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            Ecosystem Structure and Function along Urban-Rural Gradients: An Unexploited Opportunity for Ecology

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              Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity.

              Spatial variation in plant diversity has been attributed to heterogeneity in resource availability for many ecosystems. However, urbanization has resulted in entire landscapes that are now occupied by plant communities wholly created by humans, in which diversity may reflect social, economic, and cultural influences in addition to those recognized by traditional ecological theory. Here we use data from a probability-based survey to explore the variation in plant diversity across a large metropolitan area using spatial statistical analyses that incorporate biotic, abiotic, and human variables. Our prediction for the city was that land use, along with distance from urban center, would replace the dominantly geomorphic controls on spatial variation in plant diversity in the surrounding undeveloped Sonoran desert. However, in addition to elevation and current and former land use, family income and housing age best explained the observed variation in plant diversity across the city. We conclude that a functional relationship, which we term the "luxury effect," may link human resource abundance (wealth) and plant diversity in urban ecosystems. This connection may be influenced by education, institutional control, and culture, and merits further study.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                BioScience
                BioScience
                Oxford University Press (OUP)
                0006-3568
                1525-3244
                March 03 2016
                March 01 2016
                : 66
                : 3
                : 198-212
                Article
                10.1093/biosci/biw002
                © 2016

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