Landscape Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 9, pp 1753–1770 | Cite as

Urban Habitats Biodiversity Assessment (UrHBA): a standardized procedure for recording biodiversity and its spatial distribution in urban environments

  • Paulo Farinha-Marques
  • Cláudia Fernandes
  • Filipa Guilherme
  • José M. Lameiras
  • Paulo Alves
  • Robert G. H. Bunce
Research Article



Urban areas are traditionally overlooked by ecologists, but contain a wide range of biodiversity. The existing procedures for consistent recording of habitats and biodiversity are not sufficient to adequately describe urban environments in a fine scale.


A method is required to provide information on biodiversity and its spatial distribution in urban areas, for scientific objectives and urban planning. A standardized procedure is presented for the classification and mapping of urban habitats, termed Urban Habitats Biodiversity Assessment (UrHBA), designed to capture the fine detail of urban ecosystems and provide spatial data suitable for analysis and communication.


Urban Habitat Categories (UHCs) have been developed based on plant life forms, and adapted to the requirements of urban areas; new Non-Life Form categories are used to define Artificial Built Elements. Site Descriptors, Vegetation Layers and species are used to add further detail. Guidelines are provided for the mapping process, with site visits being used to elaborate the initial interpretation of remote sensed images. Data are recorded on standard forms which are linked to the mapped units.


Examples of the procedure are included for a park in Porto, Portugal. Because the units are defined according to consistent rules, sites can be repeatedly surveyed to monitor change.


The proposed methodology can be expressed in spatial formats and designed to inform urban planning processes and decisions regarding the conservation of green spaces and biodiversity. As the categories transcend species, the method is applicable in a wide range of urban areas.


Urban Habitat Categories Raunkier plant life forms Non-Life Forms Site Descriptors Vegetation Layers Land cover Urban habitat mapping Urban biodiversity 



The authors would like to greatly acknowledge the research grant provided by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia under the research project PTDC/AUR-URB/104044/2008 “Urban Green Structure: Study of the relation between public space morphology and flora and fauna diversity in the city of Porto”.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 16 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 23 kb)
10980_2017_554_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (35 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 34 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIBIO-InBIOResearch Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic ResourcesVairãoPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Geosciences, Environment and Spatial Planning, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.Estonian University of Life SciencesTartuEstonia

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