The species pool hypothesis claims that the large-scale regional species pool is the chief parameter in determining small-scale species richness through filtering of species that can persist within a community on the basis of their tolerance of the abiotic environment. Accordingly, different environmental conditions give rise to different species assemblages. From a taxonomic perspective, under the assumption of trait conservatism, co-occurring species that experience similar environmental conditions are likely to be more taxonomically similar than ecologically distant species. The next step consists in understanding how commonness and rarity of individual species produce the observed taxonomic diversity. In this paper, the importance of environmental filtering in regulating the taxonomic structure of rare and common plant species in the urban floras of Brussels (Belgium) and Rome (Italy) is tested. First, we computed the taxonomic diversity of the rare and common species of Brussels and Rome based on the branching topology of the Linnaean taxonomic trees. Next, using a randomization procedure, we determined whether the taxonomic diversity of the rare species was significantly higher than the diversity of the common species. Results show that, for both urban floras, common species that shape the community matrix and experience similar environmental conditions have a taxonomic diversity that is significantly lower than that of the rare species that represent a relatively incidental set of species of more ‘disperse’ origin. Finally, from a conservation/management perspective our results imply that, given their high taxonomic heterogeneity, the protection of rare species is a central issue for preserving high levels of diversity in urban areas.
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