Cities Better for Biodiversity Than Previously Thought

UCSB researchers at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) recently found that urban environments worldwide may not be as bad for plants and animals as it may seem. Though urbanization diminishes biodiversity across the globe, the study — which examined 147 cities — determined that hundreds of bird species and thousands of plant species exist in a single city.

And although cities support only 8 percent of bird species and 25 percent of native plant species compared to more rural settings, urban areas can retain a “unique regional flavor” by conserving green spaces and creating refuges within bustling cities. Dubbed the Central Park Effect, the phenomenon suggests that cities can play a major role in conserving the native plant and animal species by beefing up its patches of greenery. Even threatened and endangered species can flourish in urban centers, the study states.

“This can be a cup half-full or half-empty scenario,” said Madhusudan Katti, who is a NCEAS working group member from the Department of Biology at California State University, Fresno. “If you act now and rethink the design of our urban landscapes, cities can play a major role in conserving the remaining native plant and animal species and help bring back more of them.”

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