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Ecol Lett. 2008 Oct;11(10):1054-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01217.x. Epub 2008 Jul 9.

Challenging urban species diversity: contrasting phylogenetic patterns across plant functional groups in Germany.

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UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Department of Community Ecology and Virtual Institute for Macroecology, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany.


Cities are hotspots of plant species richness, harboring more species than their rural surroundings, at least over large enough scales. However, species richness does not necessarily cover all aspects of biodiversity such as phylogenetic relationships. Ignoring these relationships, our understanding of how species assemblages develop and change in a changing environment remains incomplete. Given the high vascular plant species richness of urbanized areas in Germany, we asked whether these also have a higher phylogenetic diversity than rural areas, and whether phylogenetic diversity patterns differ systematically between species groups characterized by specific functional traits. Calculating the average phylogenetic distinctness of the total German flora and accounting for spatial autocorrelation, we show that phylogenetic diversity of urban areas does not reflect their high species richness. Hence, high urban species richness is mainly due to more closely related species that are functionally similar and able to deal with urbanization. This diminished phylogenetic information might decrease the flora's capacity to respond to environmental changes.

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