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Diversity in flowering plants and their characteristics: integrating humans as a driver of urban floral resources

Lowenstein, David M., Minor, Emily S.
Urban ecosystems 2016 v.19 no.4 pp. 1735-1748
Hispanics, Trifolium repens, Whites, cities, community structure, demographic statistics, ecosystem services, flowers, functional properties, habitat conservation, humans, landscapes, lifestyle, low-income neighborhoods, ornamental plants, perennials, plant characteristics, plant communities, socioeconomic factors, species diversity, urban areas, weeds, Illinois
Urban neighborhoods vary in development intensity and in the life style and demographics of their residents. Decisions made by urban residents affect plant communities, their functional characteristics, and the floral resources they provide. We recorded flowers in front-facing yards in 58 neighborhoods in Chicago, IL (USA) and examined patterns in community composition and species turnover between neighborhoods. We investigated how species richness and plant characteristics, including origin, cultivation intent, and life cycle, are affected by neighborhood socioeconomic factors. Urban plant species tended to be perennial, ornamental, and non-native. White clover had the broadest distribution and the highest floral abundance but was not present in several of the highest-income neighborhoods. Although we found 144 morpho-species across neighborhoods, most occurred infrequently. Species turnover was highest for ornamental species and lowest for weedy species, suggesting that intentional plantings are driving beta diversity across the landscape. We found the highest species richness in neighborhoods with intermediate numbers of Hispanic and white residents and with intermediate number of residential lots; neighborhoods with racially or ethnically homogenous populations had fewer plant species. The high frequency of weeds in low-income neighborhoods, the occurrence of certain ornamental plant species in whiter, wealthier communities, and high turnover of species from one neighborhood to another, all suggest a disparity in plant-related ecosystem services across cities. Complexity in urban plantings may be influenced by the suite of perspectives that residents bring towards habitat management. Cultivation sustains a diversity of plants and creates a disparity in plant traits by neighborhood socioeconomics.