Biotic homogenization of the California flora in urban and urbanizing regions

TitleBiotic homogenization of the California flora in urban and urbanizing regions
Publication TypeJournal Article
Schwartz MW, Thorne JH, Viers JH
Type of Articlearticle
Year of Publication2006

Biotic homogenization, driven by native species losses and invasive species gains was investigated for the flora of California. Data from a variety of available databases were aggregated at the county level to examine patterns in county population density and growth in relation to floristic change. Based on population, California was divided into three zones: high (n = 9; 257-1320 people/km(2)), medium (n = 25; 28-177 people/km(2)), and low (n = 24; 1-24 people/km(2)) density counties. Examining patterns of rare plant occurrences among these counties revealed that high and medium density counties contained, on average, as many or more rare and endemic species than low density counties. The largest pool of these species, 48 percent of the 962 highly threatened taxa in California, is restricted to high and medium density counties. Thus, urban and urbanizing counties play a strategic role in maintaining a part of California's flora that is both globally significant and threatened with extinction. Examining species losses and noxious weed additions across high density counties, reveals a consistent pattern of low similarity among species that have been extirpated from high density counties and a high similarity among noxious weeds that these counties now share. The consequence is that California's urban county floras appear to be homogenizing. Examining homogenization using the entire flora for urban counties demonstrates that less similar counties become more similar. The effect of loss of rare species could outweigh the gain in exotics, under an assumption of strong extinction. Finally, a strong negative relationship between population density and the proportion of county land in public ownership suggests that high and medium density counties are in a poor position to protect rare plant populations on a localized basis. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Journal DateJAN
Citation KeySchwartz2006