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A global synthesis of plant extinction rates in urban areas

Authors

  • Amy K. Hahs,

    Corresponding author
    1. Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Private Bag 2000, South Yarra, Vic. 3141, Australia
    2. School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia
      * Correspondence: E-mail: hahsa@unimelb.edu.au
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  • Mark J. McDonnell,

    1. Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Private Bag 2000, South Yarra, Vic. 3141, Australia
    2. School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia
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  • Michael A. McCarthy,

    1. School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia
    2. Applied Environmental Decision Analysis, c/o School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia
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  • Peter A. Vesk,

    1. School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia
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  • Richard T. Corlett,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, Singapore 117543, Singapore
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  • Briony A. Norton,

    1. Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Private Bag 2000, South Yarra, Vic. 3141, Australia
    2. School of Botany, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia
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  • Steven E. Clemants,

    1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11225, USA
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    • Deceased (November 2008).

  • Richard P. Duncan,

    1. Bioprotection Research Centre, PO Box 84, Lincoln University, Lincoln 7647, New Zealand
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  • Ken Thompson,

    1. Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, Alfred Denny Building, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
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  • Mark W. Schwartz,

    1. Department of Environmental Science and Policy, 2132 Wickson Hall, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
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  • Nicholas S. G. Williams

    1. Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Private Bag 2000, South Yarra, Vic. 3141, Australia
    2. Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic. 3010, Australia
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* Correspondence: E-mail: hahsa@unimelb.edu.au

Abstract

Plant extinctions from urban areas are a growing threat to biodiversity worldwide. To minimize this threat, it is critical to understand what factors are influencing plant extinction rates. We compiled plant extinction rate data for 22 cities around the world. Two-thirds of the variation in plant extinction rates was explained by a combination of the city’s historical development and the current proportion of native vegetation, with the former explaining the greatest variability. As a single variable, the amount of native vegetation remaining also influenced extinction rates, particularly in cities > 200 years old. Our study demonstrates that the legacies of landscape transformations by agrarian and urban development last for hundreds of years, and modern cities potentially carry a large extinction debt. This finding highlights the importance of preserving native vegetation in urban areas and the need for mitigation to minimize potential plant extinctions in the future.

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