Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 897–909 | Cite as

Determinants of species richness within and across taxonomic groups in urban green spaces

  • Sarah A. MatthiesEmail author
  • Stefan Rüter
  • Frank Schaarschmidt
  • Rüdiger Prasse


Urban green spaces provide habitat for numerous plant and animal species. However, currently we have little knowledge on which determinants drive the species richness within and across taxonomic groups. In this paper we investigate the determinants of total, native, and endangered species richness for vascular plants, birds, and mammals within and across taxonomic groups. We examined a stratified random sample of 32 urban green spaces in Hannover, Germany. Species inventories for plants and birds were generated on the basis of line transect surveys. Mammals were surveyed by means of point counts using camera traps. Using a principal component analysis and multiple regression models, we tested 10 explanatory variables for species-area effects, distance effects, and the effects of habitat structure of green spaces on species richness. When analyzing single explanatory variables, we determined that the species richness of all groups was significantly positively correlated to patch area, number of habitat types, and a short distance to the nearest green space. Testing combined effects of variables showed that patch area in combination with habitat heterogeneity was most important for plants (total, native, and endangered), birds (total and native), and overall species richness. This emphasizes the importance of the species-area effect and the effects of habitat structure on species richness in urban green spaces. We conclude that, in the context of urban planning, it is important to conserve large green spaces that include a high diversity of habitats to maintain high species richness.


Biodiversity Urban ecology Multivariable approach Patch area Habitat heterogeneity 



This joint research project was financially supported by the State of Lower Saxony, Hannover, Germany (VWZN2631). We thank H. Grebe for providing digital data and M. Bienek, G. Brunotte, L. Busse, I. Fischer, G. Garnatz, H. Geiges, S. Hallex, H. Illmer, B. Karrasch, C. Peter, H. Scharping, N. Voßler, A. Wenau, C. Wohnrade for the opportunity to conduct field surveys. We are grateful to M. D. Graf and L. von Falkenhayn for proofreading the English manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which helped us to improve the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Animal studies

This research paper contains data on bird and mammal species. Animals were only identified by sighting or hearing and no animals were captured during data collection. Therefore, the welfare of animals should not be negatively affected by the research.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah A. Matthies
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefan Rüter
    • 1
  • Frank Schaarschmidt
    • 2
  • Rüdiger Prasse
    • 1
  1. 1.Leibniz Universität HannoverInstitute of Environmental PlanningHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz Universität HannoverInstitute of BiostatisticsHannoverGermany

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