Plant diversity in cities: call for assessment and conservation

Urbanization destroys natural habitats, displaces native ecosystems and results in regional extinction of native species. Urbanization is also argued to cause homogenization during which native species are replaced with non-native species. Negative impact of urbanization on ecosystems and biodiversity is usually focused upon while the fact that high levels of biodiversity may flourish inside cities are frequently ignored. Cities comprise a mixture of remnants of the pre-existing urban habitats and new urban habitats. The remaining fragments of natural landscapes, and other vegetation areas constitute the green infrastructure supporting the biological diversity of cities. Several biotopes such as lawns, hedges, parklands and street trees occur in the cities. In the cities ambient temperatures are higher than those of the surrounding rural areas, exhibiting the phenomenon of urban heat island. Urban vegetation experiences longer growing seasons and exhibits earlier greening than vegetation in the surrounding rural areas. Trees comprise the natural capital assets for cities as they provide immense benefits and ecosystem services for the wellbeing of city dwellers, although there are some disservices also. Studies on urban vegetation are very few in the tropics and particularly in India. In this article we review several aspects of plant diversity in cities in order to sensitize scientists, city managers and lay public to the need for more  research on socioeconomic benefits and costs of city vegetation and to augment the vegetation within cities through conservation.

Read the full article in Current Science