by D Hope, C Gries, W Zhu, WF Fagan, CL Redman, NB Grimm, AL Nelson, C Martin, A Kinzig

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100(15): 8788-8792

This paper postulates that the spatial variation in plant diversity in an urban setting is determined not solely by natural reproduction and mortality of the vegetal cover in the ecosystem, but rather by the socioeconomic status of the residents. The authors predicted that elevation was the primary driver of plant diversity outside the city, while in the city land use was the primary driver. In a long-term ecological study, the authors surveyed woody perennial plant diversity across the Central Arizona-Phoenix corridor, including the rapidly expanding metropolitan Phoenix area, and surrounding agricultural and undeveloped native desert land. The analysis of both field survey and complementary socio-economic data led to three significant findings: 1) the composition and longevity of woody perennials in the Phoenix urban landscape are mainly determined by human choices and landscape maintenance rather than natural cycles; 2) residents’ wealth (the “luxury effect”), and the age of housing had a positive relationship to plant diversity in urban settings; 3) in desert areas elevation was the primary driver then distance from the urban center. The authors recommend that these surveys be repeated regularly to update residents’ evolving socio-economic situation and plant cover preferences. Additionally, it would be best to include other factors such as education level, culture, institutional influences, and controls.
Region: Central Arizona-Phoenix region
Publication Type: Journal article
Keywords: arid and semi-arid climates, land use, socioeconomics, and species diversity