, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 161-176
Date: 29 Jan 2008

Effects of urbanization on species richness: A review of plants and animals

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Many studies have described the effects of urbanization on species richness. These studies indicate that urbanization can increase or decrease species richness, depending on several variables. Some of these variables include: taxonomic group, spatial scale of analysis, and intensity of urbanization. Recent reviews of birds (the most-studied group) indicate that species richness decreases with increasing urbanization in most cases but produces no change or even increases richness in some studies. Here I expand beyond the bird studies by reviewing 105 studies on the effects of urbanization on the species richness of non-avian species: mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and plants. For all groups, species richness tends to be reduced in areas with extreme urbanization (i.e., central urban core areas). However, the effects of moderate levels of urbanization (i.e., suburban areas) vary significantly among groups. Most of the plant studies (about 65%) indicate increasing species richness with moderate urbanization whereas only a minority of invertebrate studies (about 30%) and a very small minority of non-avian vertebrate studies (about 12%) show increasing species richness. Possible explanations for these results are discussed, including the importance of nonnative species importation, spatial heterogeneity, intermediate disturbance and scale as major factors influencing species richness.