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Abstract Detail

Ecological Section

Blake, Jennifer [1], Frazee, Lauren [2], Bhattacharjee, Aishwarya [3], Sharma, Alisha [3], Struwe, Lena [4].

Patterns of plant species diversity in extreme urban environments.

The flora of cities worldwide is largely composed of extreme urban plant life, mostly weedy species with high tolerances for drought, extreme heat, chemical pollution, and mechanical stress. These urban “extremophytes” are now some of the most widespread terrestrial plants on Earth, but we know surprisingly little about their communities, population ecology, and ongoing adaptation in urban landscapes. We investigate if extreme urban environments support high species diversity and if these species follow common ecological patterns such as species area relationships. Asphalted parking lots with cracks and curb edges are ideal urban study sites because they are heterogeneous in size, yet replicated throughout a city. In 2013 and 2014 we surveyed the plant species richness of 15+ asphalted parking lots (both along cracks and curb edges) at Rutgers University- New Brunswick (New Jersey, USA). One hundred and sixteen vascular plant species (89% herbaceous) representing 93 genera and 39 families were found growing in the parking lots. Nearly 60% of the total species (and 40% of crack species) had at least one individual flower and/or set seed during the survey season. As predicted, we found that parking lot area influences urban species richness, with larger parking lots harboring more plant species (R2=0.33). Many other factors may also affect species richness in parking lots, such as microhabitat heterogeneity (age of asphalt, drains), disturbance (herbicide use, road salt, storm run-off, street sweeping), and dispersal (traffic connectivity and intensity, frequency of use). Native and exotic species respond to area differently, with exotics exhibiting a stronger species area relationship (R2=0.33, N=19) than natives (R2=0.21, N=12). The high species diversity indicates that some of the most extreme urban environments support a diverse flora. The high proportion of species reproducing in parking lot habitats suggests that extreme environments may not just be sinks for many species, but also sources of genetic variation, in a broad-scale, urban metacommunity. A greater understanding of community dynamics, urban seed banks, and distributions of urban weedy species will be necessary to understand and manage the ecosystem services provided by vegetation in cities. Future work should address mechanisms behind survival and reproduction differences among species as well as dispersal and gene flow within the city to better understand plant community dynamics and ongoing evolutionary adaptations in urban habitats.

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1 - Rutgers University, Ecology and Evolution , 237 Foran Hall, 59 Dudley Rd, Cook Campus , New Brunswick, New Jersey, 08901, USA
2 - Rutgers University, Ecology and Evolution
3 - Rutgers University, Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources
4 - Rutgers University, Dept of Ecology, Evolution, & Natural Resources, 237 Foran Hall, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA

species area relationship
Species richness
urban ecology
natives / non-natives.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 35
Location: Salon 6/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Time: 8:30 AM
Number: 35003
Abstract ID:960
Candidate for Awards:None

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