Landscape Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 941–954 | Cite as

Response of arthropod species richness and functional groups to urban habitat structure and management

  • T. Sattler
  • P. Duelli
  • M. K. Obrist
  • R. Arlettaz
  • M. Moretti
Research Article


Urban areas are a particular landscape matrix characterized by a fine-grained spatial arrangement of very diverse habitats (urban mosaic). We investigated arthropods to analyse biodiversity-habitat associations along five environmental gradients (age, impervious area, management, configuration, composition) in three Swiss cities (96 study sites). We considered total species richness and species richness within different functional groups (zoophagous, phytophagous, pollinator, low mobility, and high mobility species). Information theoretical model selection procedures were applied and predictions were calculated based on weighted models. Urban areas yielded on average 284 arthropod species (range: 169–361), with species richness correlating mostly with heterogeneity indices (configuration and composition). Species richness also increased with age of urban settlement, while enlarged proportions of impervious area and intensified habitat management was negatively correlated. Functional groups showed contrasted, specific responses to environmental variables. Overall, we found surprisingly little variation in species richness along the gradients, which is possibly due to the fine-grained spatial interlinkage of good (heterogeneous) and bad (sealed) habitats. The highly fragmented nature of urban areas may not represent a major obstacle for the arthropods currently existing in cities because they have probably been selected for tolerance to fragmentation and for high colonisation potential. Given that built areas are becoming denser, increasing spatial heterogeneity of the urban green offers potential for counteracting the detrimental effects of densification upon urban biodiversity. By quantifying the expected effects along environmental gradients, this study provides guidance for managers to set priorities when enhancing urban arthropod species richness.


Rapid biodiversity assessment Morphospecies Insects Spiders Resilience Switzerland 



We thank the house owners that provided access to their properties and the authorities of Lucerne, Lugano and Zurich for their support of the project. We are grateful to V. Albin, J. Ambrosini, J. Bolliger, F. Bontadina, T. Fabbro, B. Fecker, F. Fibbioli, S. Fontana, F. Gebreselassie, D. Häring, R. Home, W. Kastenholz, F. Kienast, M. Cooke Kindermann, S. Klopfstein, L. Milani, A. Niederer, J. Pellet, M. Ryf, M. Schaub, A. Schulz, R. Siegwart, R. Tester and P. Wirz who helped in the field, in the lab, with statistical questions or the organization of the project. The following arthropod specialists supported us by determining the species: C. Canepari (Coccinelidae), Y. Chittaro (Carabidae), P. Duelli (Neuroptera), C. Germann (Curculionidae), X. Heer (Araneae), C. Pradella (Lucanidae, Buprestidae, Cerambycidae). F. Bontadina, R. Home and M. Schaub and two anonymous reviewers improved earlier versions of the manuscript. Special thanks go to M. Lehmann. This study forms part of the interdisciplinary project ‘BiodiverCity’ ( which aims at the identification, maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity and their acceptance in the urban development process. BiodiverCity was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation as a project of NRP54 ‘Sustainable development of the built environment’ (

Supplementary material

10980_2010_9473_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (115 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 116 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Sattler
    • 1
    • 2
  • P. Duelli
    • 3
  • M. K. Obrist
    • 3
  • R. Arlettaz
    • 2
    • 4
  • M. Moretti
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecosystem BoundariesSwiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow, and Landscape ResearchBellinzonaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Division of Conservation Biology, Institute of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  3. 3.Biodiversity and Conservation BiologySwiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow, and Landscape ResearchBirmensdorfSwitzerland
  4. 4.Swiss Ornithological InstituteSalgeschSwitzerland

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