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  1. Abstract

    Given the large and increasing amount of urban, suburban, and exurban land use on Earth, there is a need to accurately assess net primary productivity (NPP) of urban ecosystems. However, the heterogeneous and dynamic urban mosaic presents challenges to the measurement of NPP, creating landscapes that may appear more similar to a savanna than to the native landscape replaced. Studies of urban biomass have tended to focus on one type of vegetation (e.g., lawns or trees). Yet a focus on the ecology of the city should include the entire urban ecosystem rather than the separate investigation of its parts. Furthermore, few studies have attempted to measure urban aboveground NPP (ANPP) using field‐based methods. Most studies project growth rates from measurements of tree diameter to estimate annual ANPP or use remote sensing approaches. In addition, field‐based methods for measuring NPP do not address any special considerations for adapting such field methods to urban landscapes. Frequent planting and partial or complete removal of herbaceous and woody plants can make it difficult to accurately quantify increments and losses of plant biomass throughout an urban landscape. In this study, we review how ANPP of urban landscapes can be estimated based on field measurements, highlighting the challenges specific to urban areas. We then estimated ANPP of woody and herbaceous vegetation over a 15‐year period for Baltimore, MD, USA using a combination of plot‐based field data and published values from the literature. Baltimore's citywide ANPP was estimated to be 355.8 g m−2, a result that we then put into context through comparison with other North American Long‐Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites and mean annual precipitation. We found our estimate of Baltimore citywide ANPP to be only approximately half as much (or less) than ANPP at forested LTER sites of the eastern United States, and more comparable to grassland, oldfield, desert, or boreal forest ANPP. We also found that Baltimore had low productivity for its level of precipitation. We conclude with a discussion of the significance of accurate assessment of primary productivity of urban ecosystems and critical future research needs.

     
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  2. Abstract Questions

    Urban ecosystems present an opportunity to study ecological communities in the context of unprecedented environmental change. In the face of urban land conversion, ecologists observe new patterns of species composition, dominance, behaviour and dispersal. We propose a hypothetical socioeconomic template that describes a gradient in human investment in community composition to aid in organizing the human role in shaping urban biodiversity. We asked: (1) what is the relative magnitude of taxonomic and functional turnover of urban woody plant communities across different land‐use types; and (2) do land uses exhibiting higher intensity of human management of biodiversity support higher turnover over those with less human influence?

    Location

    Baltimore,MD,USA(39°17′ N, 76°38′ W).

    Methods

    We examined patterns in woody plant biodiversity across 209 plots of different urban land uses. Six land‐use types were arranged along a gradient in the intensity through which humans are hypothesized to manage species composition at the plot scale. We calculated local, or α‐diversity, and compositional turnover, or β‐diversity, of taxonomic and functional diversity across plots within each land‐use type. We compared the magnitude of these biodiversity measures between land uses to test our conceptual template for how the intensity of human management can predict urban woody plant biodiversity.

    Results

    We observed high taxonomic turnover in residential and commercial plots compared with vacant or open space land‐use areas. This was associated with a weaker, but similar, pattern in functional diversity. This was associated with low total abundance in residential and commercial plots. Furthermore, the number of unique species was extremely high in the same land‐use types.

    Conclusions

    Our observations help explain why turnover can be high in heavily managed plots relative to vacant land. In patches without heavy human management, we found low levels of turnover. This highlights the importance of assessing diversity both locally and at the level of turnover between patches. Management and policy can benefit from the perspective embodied in the conceptual approach tested here.

     
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