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Habitat origins and microhabitat preferences of urban plant species

Abstract

Urban vegetation is commonly described as dominated by weedy species that are adapted to human disturbance. In this study, we determined the original (pre-agriculture) habitats of urban plant species sampled quantitatively in the spontaneous vegetation of a university campus in Halifax, Nova Scotia (eastern Canada). We sampled 11 distinct patch types corresponding to different built forms. Differences in vegetation among patch types were related in part to environmental variables such as soil moisture and light availability. The urban vegetation was dominated by species from rocky habitats such as cliffs and talus slopes, with lesser representation from grassland and floodplain habitats. When compared to a null model of species origins based on the global area and species richness of different original habitats, species from rock outcrops and grassland habitats were overrepresented in the urban vegetation. These results contrast with the received view that cities represented highly “unnatural” ecosystems: built form appears to replicate the habitat templates required by rock outcrop species. Urban ecological theory should incorporate the replication of habitat analogs by built forms in addition to the creation of ecologically novel habitats.

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Correspondence to J. T. Lundholm.

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Lundholm, J.T., Marlin, A. Habitat origins and microhabitat preferences of urban plant species. Urban Ecosyst 9, 139–159 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-006-8587-4

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Keywords

  • Habitat template
  • Urban vegetation
  • Original habitats
  • Species pool
  • Non-native species