Small urban woodlands as biodiversity conservation hot-spot: a multi-taxon approach

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To evaluate the importance of urban woodlands to serve as potential sites for biodiversity conservation, we analysed bird, carabid beetle and small mammal community responses to urbanisation at different spatial scales. We analysed the relationships between the variations of the structure (species richness S, diversity H′ and dominance D) of animal communities of woodlands distributed along a rural-urban gradient, and the variations along this same gradient of (1) the vegetation within woodlands, (2) the landscape at 100 m and (3) 600 m around the woodlands. We identified the spatial scales whose variations along the gradient most affected each animal community structure, and characterised community responses to these variations. Our results showed that urbanisation affected taxa differently according to their dispersal ability. Carabid beetles, less mobile, seem to be sensitive to increasing fragmentation and built surfaces from periurban to town centre which could make their movement within the urban landscape difficult. Birds, mobile species, seem to be more sensitive to variations of the vegetation structure within woodlands from periurban to town centre that could affect their capacity to maintain in habitat patches. Although our study did not allow relating the small mammal community structure to urbanisation, it suggests that this taxa is sensitive to urban local disturbances. A relevant management scale of woodlands can be specified for each taxa conservation. Urban woodlands accommodate over 50% of the species present in periurban woodlands, and effective management could enhance this number. Woodlands seem to be a good choice for promoting biodiversity conservation in towns.

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