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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity;
  • community assembly;
  • fragmentation;
  • metapopulation;
  • spatial scale;
  • urbanization

ABSTRACT

Rapid urbanization throughout the world is expected to cause extensive loss of biodiversity in the upcoming decades. Disturbances associated with urbanization frequently operate over multiple spatial scales such that local species extirpations have been attributed both to localized habitat degradation and to regional changes in land use. Urbanization also may shape stream communities by restricting species dispersal within and among stream reaches. In this patch-dynamics view, anthropogenic disturbances and isolation jointly reduce stream biodiversity in urbanizing landscapes. We evaluated predictions of stream invertebrate community composition and abundance based on variation in environmental conditions at five distinct spatial scales: stream habitats, reaches, riparian corridors and watersheds and their spatial location within the larger three-river basin. Despite strong associations between biodiversity loss and human density in this study, local stream habitat and stream reach conditions were poor predictors of community patterns. Instead, local community diversity and abundance were more accurately predicted by riparian vegetation and watershed landscape structure. Spatial coordinates associated with instream distances provided better predictions of stream communities than any of the environmental data sets. Together, results suggest that urbanization in the study region was associated with reduced stream invertebrate diversity through the alteration of landscape vegetation structure and patch connectivity. These findings suggest that maintaining and restoring watershed vegetation corridors in urban landscapes will aid efforts to conserve freshwater biodiversity.