Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 333-347

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Determinates of inner city butterfly and bee species richness

  • Kevin C. MattesonAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Fordham University Email author 
  • , Gail A. LangellottoAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Fordham UniversityDepartment of Horticulture, Oregon State University


Although urbanization is increasing worldwide, relatively few studies have investigated patterns of urban biodiversity outside of city parks and reserves, in urban neighborhoods where people live and work. We evaluated models including local and landscape factors that might influence the bee and butterfly richness of community gardens located within densely populated neighborhoods of the Bronx and East Harlem in New York City (>10,000 people/km2). The gardens were surrounded by buildings and limited amounts of green space (3,600–17,400 building units and 10–32% green space within a 500 m radius). Contrary to our initial prediction that landscape green space might be especially influential in this heavily urbanized setting, the most highly supported models for both bee and butterfly richness (based on Akaike Information Criterion) included just the local, within-garden variables of garden floral area and sunlight availability. There was marginal support for models of bee richness including the number of building units surrounding gardens within a 500 m radius (which exhibited a negative association with bee richness). In addition, perhaps because bees are central place foragers that may nest within or near gardens, supported models of bee species richness also included total garden area, canopy cover, and the presence of wild/unmanaged area in the garden. Generally, our findings indicate that sunlight and floral abundance are the major factors limiting local pollinator diversity in this setting. This suggests that rooftop and other “open” urban habitats might be managed to increase local pollinator diversity, even if seemingly “isolated” within heavily developed neighborhoods.


Community gardens New York City Green space Urban biodiversity Modeling species richness