, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 305-327
Date: 29 May 2013

Species richness in urban parks and its drivers: A review of empirical evidence

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Abstract

There is growing recognition of urban areas as hosts for innovative ways to conserve and promote biodiversity. Parks, as one specific type of urban green space, constitute particularly important biodiversity hotspots in the cityscape. We reviewed empirical findings on the species richness in urban parks across all species groups that have been studied. The aim was to assess and discuss the overall species richness of urban parks, its community attributes and drivers. Search and subsequent selection process resulted in 62 papers from 25 different countries. For all examined species groups, the findings consistently show that parks are among the most species rich types of urban green spaces, but also that exotics constitute large shares, especially of plant species. Key ecological theories like the gradient approach and the island habitat ecological theory, and fundamental ecological relationships such as the species-area relationship are valid despite the manipulated ‘nature’ of parks and the surrounding urban matrix. Most studies surveyed large number of parks and applied ‘multi-scale’ approaches in tests of confounding variables, providing methodological strength. While matrix effects are consistently found to affect species richness negatively, the diversity of habitats and microhabitat heterogeneity contained in urban parks appears as the most decisive factor for the overall species richness. However, a constraint of research to date is the limitation of individual studies to one or a few species groups, rarely bridging between flora and fauna. Adopting ‘multi-species group’ approaches in future research is needed to further advance the understanding of the overall biodiversity of urban parks, and its drivers.