Unlike previous urban biodiversity research, this study looks beyond the local impacts of urbanization and considers overall impacts on global biodiversity. The research team created the largest global dataset to date of two diverse taxa in cities: birds (54 cities) and plants (110 cities). Overall, the findings show that cities supported far fewer species (about 92 percent less for birds and 75 percent less for native plants) than expected for similar areas of undeveloped land. The study also shows that many plant and animal species can flourish in cities, even as others decline or disappear entirely, thus highlighting the value of green space as important refuges for native species and migrating wildlife.
“While urbanization has caused cities to lose large numbers of plants and animals, the good news is that cities still retain endemic native species, which opens the door for new policies on regional and global biodiversity conservation,” said lead author and NCEAS working group member Myla F. J. Aronson, a research scientist in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
“Given that the majority of people now live in cities, this group's synthesis of data on urban plant and animal diversity should be of broad interest to ecologists as well as landscape planners,” said Frank Davis, director of NCEAS.
A global analysis of the impacts of urbanization on bird and plant diversity reveals key anthropogenic drivers
Myla F. J. Aronson, Frank A. La Sorte, Charles H. Nilon, Madhusudan Katti, Mark A. Goddard, Christopher A. Lepczyk, Paige S. Warren, Nicholas S. G. Williams, Sarel Cilliers, Bruce Clarkson, Cynnamon Dobbs, Rebecca Dolan, Marcus Hedblom, Stefan Klotz, Jip Louwe Kooijmans, Ingolf Ku ̈hn, Ian MacGregor-Fors, Mark McDonnell, Ulla Mo ̈rtberg, Petr Pyˇsek, Stefan Siebert, Jessica Sushinsky, Peter Werner, and Marten Winter
Proceedings B of the Royal Society, February, 2014
UCSB News Release
The following is a sample of media coverage:
ABC News (Australia): 20 per cent of world's bird species found in cities, says urban biodiversity report
BBC: Study shows urbanization's impact on biodiversity
Phys.Org: Global survey of urban birds and plants find more diversity than expected
Red Orbit: More native biodiversity supported by cities than previously thought
UPI: Despite biodiversity loss as land becomes urban, some species thrive
More information about this NCEAS Working Group's research, participants, and publications.
This work was supported by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the National Science Foundation (Grant #EF-0553768), and the University of California, Santa Barbara.