Plants in Urban Settings: From Patterns to Mechanisms and Ecosystem Services

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More than half of the global human population is living in urban areas, and the trend towards further urbanization is strongly increasing (MEA 2005; United Nations 2008). Hence, the majority of people globally will experience “nature” and related ecosystem services primarily within the urban fabric (Gilbert 1989; McKinney 2002; Miller and Hobbs 2002; Miller 2005; Goddard et al. 2010). There is increasing evidence that urban land uses affect profound changes in all environmental components and that humans are the main drivers of change (Sukopp et al. 1979; Pickett et al. 2001; Alberti et al. 2003; Grimm et al. 2008). Urban growth has been identified as a major threat to biodiversity (e.g. Hansen et al. 2005), but at the same time, urban regions can harbour an array of species (Sukopp and Werner 1983; Gilbert 1989; Pys?ek 1993; McKinney 2002) and contribute to the conservation of biodiversity. However, distinct urban ecosystems cannot replace totally the habitat function of (near-)natural systems (Kowarik 2011).