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Diversity of Central European urban biota: effects of human-made habitat types on plants and land snails

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Abstract Aim 

Urbanization is associated with strong changes in biodiversity, but the diversity of plant and animal assemblages varies among urban habitats. We studied effects of urban habitats on the diversity of vascular plants and land snails in 32 large cities. Location 

Central Europe, Belgium and the Netherlands. Methods 

The species composition of all vascular plants that had not been planted by humans, and all land snails, was recorded in seven 1-ha plots within each city. Each plot contained one urban habitat type representing a different disturbance regime: historical city square, boulevard, residential area with compact building pattern, residential area with open building pattern, park, early successional and mid-successional site. For each plot, we obtained temperature and precipitation data. The effects of climate and habitat types on species composition were quantified using ordination methods with an adjusted variation partitioning algorithm. Differences in species composition among urban habitats were described using statistically determined diagnostic species, and differences in alpha, beta and gamma diversity were quantified. Results 

A total of 1196 plant and 87 snail species were recorded. Habitat type explained higher proportions of the total variation in both plant and snail species composition (11.2 and 8.2%, respectively) than did climate (4.6 and 6.3%). For both taxa, the main differences in species composition were observed between strongly urbanized sites in city centres and early successional and mid-successional sites. For vascular plants, the number of species was lowest in city squares and boulevards, and highest at successional sites and in residential areas with compact building patterns. Beta diversity of vascular plants calculated for the same habitat types among cities was highest for squares and successional sites. The number of snail species was lowest in city squares and at early successional sites, and highest at mid-successional sites. The highest beta diversity of snail assemblages among cities was observed within the city square and early successional habitat types, and the lowest within residential area habitat types. Main conclusions 

Urban habitats differ notably in the diversity of their vascular plant flora and land snail fauna. Understanding the habitat-related biodiversity patterns in urbanized landscapes will allow projections of future impacts of urban land-use changes on the biota.
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Keywords: Beta diversity; Europe; biodiversity; city; disturbance; flora; species richness; urban ecology; urbanization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Botany and Zoology, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, CZ-611 37 Brno, Czech Republic 2: Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Dúbravská cesta 9, SK-841 04 Bratislava, Slovakia 3: Department of Zoology, Charles University in Prague, Viničná 7, CZ-128 44 Praha, Czech Republic

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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