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The impact in Springfield, MA of urbanization on plant biodiversity

Cities homogenize physical environments to meet the needs of humans. This homogenization can impact urban plant communities creating selective environments. The effects of urbanization on plant species richness and beta diversity needs to be further studied in order to assess the role that  urbanized landscaping contributes to non-native species invasions and biotic homogenization. Here, we are interested in how urbanization in Springfield, Massachusetts has affected plant biodiversity with a focus on non-natives and vulnerable species.  Herbarium samples were obtained through the CNH Consortium of Northeastern Herbaria and categorized by “pre-urbanization” time period ranging 1880-1900, and “post-urbanization” time period 1990-1995. We predict that the mean ‘C-value’ (a proxy for sensitive species) will decrease over time throughout the urbanization of Springfield. Additionally, we predict that urbanization will increase the amount of non-native species in Springfield, MA. Our results showed that the mean C-value was significantly higher in the pre-urbanization time period, supporting our predictions. Furthermore, only 3.3% of the total species in the post-urbanization sampling were ranked at a C-value of 8 or higher, while pre-urbanization sampling had 17.4% of the species at or above that rank. Additionally, there was a slight increase in non-native species in the post-urbanization sampling (25.7% vs. 21.7%). This study gathers a concern for not only Springfield, but other urbanized communities experiencing biotic homogenization. Urban areas must stress implementing higher conservation efforts to preserve native species and their habitat.

Christina Ciampa '23  
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