Connectivity of public urban grasslands: implications for grassland conservation and restoration in cities

Abstract

An important limitation of studies on the ecological value of urban habitats is the question of habitat connectivity. While connectivity allows spread and genetic exchange of species, isolation can lead to the extinction of populations through inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity. However, while practitioners already start improving urban habitat patches by means of restoration, issues of connectivity have not been taken in account although being crucial for a self-sustaining habitat network. In our study, we evaluate the connectivity of public urban grasslands such as lawns, grasslands in residential areas, playgrounds or parks in the city of Münster, Germany. Employing a graph theory approach, which uses a map (graph) of habitat patches to calculate functional connectivity measures using patch area size and patch connectivity, we studied four groups of different plant dispersal distances (2 m, 20 m, 44 m and 100 m). This approach can be recommended for planning issues due to the output of different indicator values and comparably low data demands. Our results show for the first time, that connectivity of urban grasslands is extremely low for species of short-distance dispersal but slightly increases for long-distance dispersal. Except two larger conglomerations of well-connected patches, urban grasslands were found to be mostly sparsely connected. Thus, future research should focus on options to improve connectivity and to prioritize patches for ecological improvement. The graph theory approach turned out to be a useful tool to analyse urban habitat connectivity but also to illustrate results obtained.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Dirk Dreier and Christoph Kuttenkeuler from the Amt für Grünflächen, Nachhaltigkeit und Umwelt (environmental office) of the City of Münster for their help during data acquisition and for their support while identifying public urban grassland patches.

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Correspondence to Valentin H. Klaus.

Appendix

Appendix

Fig. 3

Fig. 3
figure3

Arrangement of public urban grasslands in the urban area of Münster Important features: (1) Promenade (2) Lake Aasee (3) Park Wienburgpark (4) city quarter St Mauritz (5) Business park Friedenspark

Fig. 4

Fig. 4
figure4

Integral Index of Connectivity (dIIC) above (green) or below (red) a value of 1 % calculated for each habitat patch for different dispersal distances: a 2 m b 20 m c 44 m and d 100 m

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Hejkal, J., Buttschardt, T.K. & Klaus, V.H. Connectivity of public urban grasslands: implications for grassland conservation and restoration in cities. Urban Ecosyst 20, 511–519 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-016-0611-8

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Keywords

  • Integral index of connectivity
  • Conefor sensinode
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Isolation
  • Conservation planning
  • Urban biodiversity