NCEAS researchers find cities support more native biodiversity than previously thought
(2014) A National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) Working Group examined data from 147 cities worldwide and found surprisingly high numbers of plant and animal species that persist and even flourish in urban environments — to the tune of hundreds of bird species and thousands of plant species in a single city. Contrary to conventional wisdom that cities are a wasteland for biodiversity, the study found the overall mix of species in cities reflects the unique biotic heritage of their geographic location.
Overall, the findings show that cities supported far fewer species (about 92% less for birds and 75% less for native plants) than expected for similar areas of undeveloped land.
“Here, we show that although cities support regional biodiversity and native species, the process of urbanization has had profound effects on biodiversity; cities worldwide contain substantially lower densities of species compared with non-urban levels. Efforts directed towards conservation and restoration of native vegetation within urban landscapes could support greater concentrations of both bird and plant species, ameliorating the projected declines of biodiversity with rapid urban growth .”
In a press release about the results, Frank Davis, director of NCEAS said, “Given that the majority of people now live in cities, this group’s synthesis of data on urban plant and animal diversity should be of broad interest to ecologists as well as landscape planners.”