Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 545–557 | Cite as

Ecosystem services provided by urban spontaneous vegetation

  • Sarah L. Robinson
  • Jeremy T. Lundholm


Spontaneous vegetation colonizes large areas in and around cities. These unmanaged areas are considered to have low economic value or indicate dereliction, but recent research suggests that these can contribute valuable ecosystem services. This study evaluates indicators of ecosystem services in three habitats: urban spontaneous vegetation (USV), managed lawns, and semi-natural urban forest, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. USV had higher indicator values for habitat provisioning (plant species diversity, invertebrate abundance and taxonomic diversity) than the other habitats. Indicators of climatic regulatory services (albedo and leaf area index) in USV were similar to those in lawn habitats. Organic carbon content of the soils, an indicator of carbon storage, was lowest in USV but only marginally lower than in lawns. Standing biomass, an indicator of production services, was lowest in USV but lawn production may have been overestimated. While USV sites are usually transitory components of the urban landscape, they deserve further consideration due to their provision of ecosystem services, in some cases to a greater extent than conventionally valued urban habitats.


Pollinators Habitat provisioning Biomass Species richness Wasteland Brownfield 



We thank J. Scott MacIvor and Chris Majka for their assistance with insect identification, and Crystal Hillier and Sarah DesRocher for their help with the field sampling. Funding was provided by NSERC (Canadian Graduate Scholarship to SR; Discovery Grant to JL).

Supplementary material

11252_2012_225_Fig1_ESM.gif (300 kb)
Supplementary Fig. 1

Map of urban habitat study sites in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Urban spontaneous vegetation: red; lawns: yellow; forest: green) (GIF 300 kb)

11252_2012_225_MOESM1_ESM.tif (19.4 mb)
High resolution image file (TIFF 19.3 mb)
11252_2012_225_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (62 kb)
Online Resource 2-1 List of invertebrate taxa sampled by sweep netting in urban habitats (PDF 62 kb)
11252_2012_225_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (83 kb)
Online Resource 2-2 Lists of invertebrate taxa sampled in pitfall traps and sweep netting in urban habitats (PDF 82.9 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Atlantic Canada Conservation Data CentreNew BrunswickCanada
  2. 2.Biology Department/Environmental Studies ProgramSaint Mary’s UniversityHalifaxCanada

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