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Urban summer heat load: meteorological data as a proxy for metropolitan biodiversity

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Regional climate models forecast that the incidence of extreme heat waves will increase in Central Europe, and the associated intensification of urban heat islands causes concerns about human health and biodiversity. We investigated species diversity of terrestrial gastropods across an urban gradient in a metropolitan area. We considered 34 sites of different degrees of urbanization and of different thermal stress classes (TSC) that were derived from a classification of urban heat load based on the physiological equivalent temperature (PET). A total of 31 species were recorded with 0–21 species per site (mean: 4.4 ± 5.2 species per site). Alpha diversity was best explained by TSC, bush cover and perennial vegetation cover, and it decreased with increasing thermal stress. Overall, thermal stress predicted snail and slug species richness better than urban cover (ANOVA(analysis of variance); TSC: F = 10.0, p < 0.001; urbanization: F = 3.9, p = 0.018), and the proportional loss in species richness was higher for native species than for introduced species. The results indicate that climatic stress contributes to the impoverishment of biodiversity in urban areas. We propose that TSC and/or PET are useful indicators for environmental stress levels in biodiversity studies in natural and anthropogenically transformed landscapes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2012

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  • Meteorologische Zeitschrift (originally founded in 1866) is the joint periodical of the meteorological societies of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. It accepts high-quality peer-reviewed manuscripts on all aspects of observational, theoretical and computational research out of the entire field of meteorology, including climatology. Meteorologische Zeitschrift represents a natural forum for the meteorological community of Central Europe and worldwide.
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