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Proc Biol Sci. 2014 Feb 12;281(1780):20133330. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3330. Print 2014 Apr 7.

A global analysis of the impacts of urbanization on bird and plant diversity reveals key anthropogenic drivers.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, , New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, , Ithaca, NY 14850, USA, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, University of Missouri, , Columbia, MO 65211, USA, Department of Biology, California State University, , Fresno, CA 93740, USA, School of Biology, University of Leeds, , Leeds LS2 9JT, UK, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, , Honolulu, HI 96822, USA, Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, , Amherst, MA 01003, USA, School of Land and Environment, Department of Resource Management and Geography, The University of Melbourne, , 500 Yarra Boulevard, Richmond, Victoria 3070, Australia, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, c/o School of Botany, The University of Melbourne, , Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia, Unit of Environmental Sciences and Management, North-West University, , Private Bag X6001, Potchefstroom 2520, South Africa, Environmental Research Institute, University of Waikato, , Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand, School of Botany and School of Land and Environment, The University of Melbourne, , Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia, Friesner Herbarium, Butler University, , 4600 Sunset Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46208, USA, Department of Forest Resource Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, , Umeå 901 83, Sweden, Department Community Ecology, Helmholtz Centre of Environmental Research-UFZ, , Theodor-Lieser-Strasse 4, Halle 06120, Germany, Vogelbescherming Nederland, , Boulevard 12, B3707 BM, Zeist, The Netherlands, Red de Ambiente y Sustentabilidad, Instituto de Ecología, , A.C. Antigua carretera a Coatepec 351, El Haya, Xalapa 91070, México, Environmental Management and Assessment Research Group, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, , Stockholm 100 44, Sw


Urbanization contributes to the loss of the world's biodiversity and the homogenization of its biota. However, comparative studies of urban biodiversity leading to robust generalities of the status and drivers of biodiversity in cities at the global scale are lacking. Here, we compiled the largest global dataset to date of two diverse taxa in cities: birds (54 cities) and plants (110 cities). We found that the majority of urban bird and plant species are native in the world's cities. Few plants and birds are cosmopolitan, the most common being Columba livia and Poa annua. The density of bird and plant species (the number of species per km(2)) has declined substantially: only 8% of native bird and 25% of native plant species are currently present compared with estimates of non-urban density of species. The current density of species in cities and the loss in density of species was best explained by anthropogenic features (landcover, city age) rather than by non-anthropogenic factors (geography, climate, topography). As urbanization continues to expand, efforts directed towards the conservation of intact vegetation within urban landscapes could support higher concentrations of both bird and plant species. Despite declines in the density of species, cities still retain endemic native species, thus providing opportunities for regional and global biodiversity conservation, restoration and education.


anthropogenic activities; density of species; global biodiversity; native species; urbanization

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