Urban species and habitats provide important ecosystem services such as summertime cooling, recreation, and pollination at a variety of scales. Many studies have assessed how biodiversity responds to urbanization, but little work has been done to try and create recommendations that can be easily applied to urban planning, design and management practice. Urban planning often operates at broad spatial scales, typically using relatively simplistic targets for land cover mix to influence biodiversity and ecosystem service provision. Would more complicated, but still easily created, prescriptions for urban vegetation be beneficial? Here we assess the importance of vegetation measures (percentage vegetation cover, tree canopy cover and variation in canopy height) across four taxonomic groups (bats, bees, hoverflies and birds) at multiple spatial scales (100, 250, 500, 1000 m) within a major urban area (Birmingham, the United Kingdom). We found that small-scale (100–250-m radius) measures of vegetation were important predictors for hoverflies and bees, and that bats were sensitive to vegetation at a medium spatial-scale (250–500 m). In contrast, birds responded to vegetation characteristics at both small (100 m) and large (1000 m) scales. Vegetation cover, tree cover and variation in canopy height were expected to decrease with built surface cover; however, only vegetation height showed this expected trend. The results indicate the importance of relatively small patches of vegetation cover for supporting urban biodiversity, and show that relatively simple measures of vegetation characteristics can be useful predictors of species richness (or activity density, in the case of bats). They also highlight the danger of relying upon percentage built surface cover as an indicator of urban biodiversity potential.
- tree canopy height
- vegetation cover