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July 1, 2022

Detecting Patterns of Vertebrate Biodiversity Across the Multidimensional Urban Landscape

Alberti, Marina; Wang, Tianzhe. (2022). Detecting Patterns of Vertebrate Biodiversity Across the Multidimensional Urban Landscape. Ecology Letters, 25(4), 1027 – 1045.

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Explicit characterisation of the complexity of urban landscapes is critical for understanding patterns of biodiversity and for detecting the underlying social and ecological processes that shape them. Urban environments exhibit variable heterogeneity and connectivity, influenced by different historical contingencies, that affect community assembly across scales. The multidimensional nature of urban disturbance and co-occurrence of multiple stressors can cause synergistic effects leading to nonlinear responses in populations and communities. Yet, current research design of urban ecology and evolutionary studies typically relies on simple representation of the parameter space that can be observed. Sampling approaches apply simple urban gradients such as linear transects in space or comparisons of urban sites across the urban mosaic accounting for a few variables. This rarely considers multiple dimensions and scales of biodiversity, and proves to be inadequate to explain observed patterns. We apply a multidimensional approach that integrates distinctive social, ecological and built characteristics of urban landscapes, representing variations along dimensions of heterogeneity, connectivity and historical contingency. Measuring species richness and beta diversity across 100 US metropolitan areas at the city and 1-km scales, we show that distinctive signatures of urban biodiversity can result from interactions between socioecological heterogeneity and connectivity, mediated by historical contingency.


Urban Biodiversity; Biodiversity; Species Diversity; Urban Planning; Landscape Ecology; Metropolitan Areas; Beta Diversity; Multidimensional Landscape; Scaling; Spatial Scales; Species Richness; Urban Gradients; Vertebrate Species; Ecological-systems; Diversity; Urbanization; Conservation; Ecosystems; Heterogeneity; Connectivity; Population; Complexity; Evolution; Urban Environments; Synergistic Effect; Nonlinear Response; Research Design; Contingency; Urban Areas; Vertebrates