Woodlands as refuges in cities

Soga, M., Yamaura, Y., Koike, S. & Gaston, K.J. 2014. Woodland remnants as an urban wildlife refuge: a cross-taxonomic assessment. Biodiversity and Conservation 23, 649-659.

Urban nature is crucial for the quality of human life both within cities and beyond. In many developed cities, the numbers of restoration-through-revegetation projects have rapidly increased over the decades. However, the extent to which revegetated habitats perform compensatory roles for remnant habitats is poorly understood. We compared butterfly and ground beetle assemblages among three park types (five remnant parks, four newly established parks and five old established parks) and seven built-up sites in Tokyo, central Japan. Butterflies were classified into woodland or open-land and into patch-dependent or matrix-dwelling species. For both taxa, remnant parks and built-up sites had the highest and lowest species richness and abundance, respectively. Although the richness and abundance of open-land and matrix-dwelling butterflies did not differ among the three park types, those of woodland and patch-dependent species were significantly highest in remnant parks. In short, after 50 years, established parks did not attain the same insect assemblages as those in remnant parks. These results illustrate that whist revegetation is an effective and fast-acting conservation measure for generalist species (i.e., widely distributed species), this value is limited for specialists. In highly urbanised landscapes, therefore, even small remnant woodlands provide important refuges for urban wildlife. Remnant protection programs at the early stage of city development would decide the fate of urban biodiversity.