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URban Biotopes of Aotearoa New Zealand (URBANZ) (I): composition and diversity of temperate urban lawns in Christchurch


Christchurch urban lawns are dominated by non-native grasses and forbs. However, we document considerable plant diversity; the total number of species encountered in our 327 sampled lawns was 127, although 80 species occurred in <2% of lawns. Seven distinct lawn communities were identified by Two-Way INdicator SPecies ANalysis using occurrence of 47 species that occurred in > 2% of lawns. Our ability to explain variation in species composition was surprisingly good and indicates intensity of lawn maintenance such as frequency of mowing, irrigation, fertiliser, and herbicide use and whether clippings are removed or not plays the major role. Species richness significantly declines with an increase in total area of contiguous lawn, leaf litter cover, the presence of grass clippings, and on loamy soil. Hence, park lawns with coarser management had lower species richness than residential lawns. Native species were more prevalent in well tended residential lawns, where more frequent mowing and removal of clippings or litter build-up diminishes shoot competition or shading. There is tremendous potential for more native species in New Zealand lawns which would contribute substantially to the conservation of endangered lowland herbaceous flora.

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This research was funded in part by a FRST (Foundation for Research Science & Technology) contract to Manaaki-Whenua Landcare Research (CO9X0309) in a programme entitled: Low Impact Urban Design and Development. We are grateful to Brad Case for assistance with the GIS analysis and we thank Sarel Cilliers, Stephan Halloy, Chris Lusk, Margaret Carreiro and Nick Williams for providing us with preliminary lawn composition data for our global comparisons.

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Correspondence to Glenn H. Stewart.

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Stewart, G.H., Ignatieva, M.E., Meurk, C.D. et al. URban Biotopes of Aotearoa New Zealand (URBANZ) (I): composition and diversity of temperate urban lawns in Christchurch. Urban Ecosyst 12, 233–248 (2009).

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  • Biodiversity
  • Garden city
  • Lawn maintenance
  • Ordination
  • Urban lawns
  • Vegetation classification