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Human land use as a driver of plant community composition in wetlands of the Chicago metropolitan region


Anthropogenic alteration of the landscape has facilitated plant community change and non-native species invasion in urban areas. We used species occurrence data from over 2000 wetlands within the Chicago metropolitan region to classify urban wetlands into community types and examined non-native species composition across community types. Non-native species were widespread across the region, occurring in over 99% of wetlands. On average, 35% of the plant species in individual wetlands were non-native. A single non-native species, Phalaris arundinacea, was present in 74% of wetlands. Six wetland community types were identified (wet meadows, marshes, forested wetlands, farmed wetlands/mudflats, roadside marshes, and an undetermined wetland type), with each having aggressively spreading non-natives amongst the most common plant species. We conducted canonical correspondence analysis to evaluate the contribution of surrounding land cover, roads, and location of wetlands to plant community composition in these wetlands, and found that similar changes to the landscape have resulted in similar combinations of native and non-native species. Differences in species composition reflected spatial gradients in land use from urban to rural areas across the region, as well as proximity to major roads. Anthropogenic drivers have resulted in profound and pervasive changes to wetland communities across the region, creating novel habitats and ultimately novel community types.

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We would like to thank the Illinois Department of Transportation for funding the original wetland delineations and the staff of the Illinois Natural History Survey who conducted the wetland delineations. Thanks to Jennifer Fraterrigo, Jonathan Greenberg, George Geatz, Adrianna Krzywicka, Edward Price and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jeffrey W. Matthews.

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Skultety, D., Matthews, J.W. Human land use as a driver of plant community composition in wetlands of the Chicago metropolitan region. Urban Ecosyst 21, 447–458 (2018).

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  • Invasive plants
  • Non-native species
  • Novel ecosystem
  • Roads
  • Urbanization