Baltimore Ecosystem Study Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2012 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Flora Baltimorensis: The plants and people of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study
Nicholson, Charles
Co-Authors: Erin Mellenthin

Abstract: Global species diversity continues to decline, yet at local and regional scales species diversity tends to increase because introduction of exotics typically outpaces the loss of native species. The composition of urban vegetation is exemplary of this trend. The high disturbance regime characteristic of urban areas and of household yards has been shown to support plant species that are short-lived, self-compatible, annual/biennial, Within urban areas, household yards represent novel habitats whose community assembly is largely determined by anthropogenic effects. Yard management by individual homeowners involves cultivation, weeding, herbicide application, augmentation of nutrient and soil moisture conditions, and other activities that alter both local and regional species pools. During the 2012 summer, we recorded the occurrence of cultivated and spontaneous vascular plant species (irrespective of abundance, excluding aquatic species) in 21 private household yards in the Baltimore metropolitan area. The phylogenetic diversity found in urban areas is compared to the species pool present in "natural-areas" located at Oregon Ridge State Park and Leakin Park. Interviews were conducted with 19 of 20 homeowners opening a venue of communication and establishing trust between researchers and homeowners. The collaboration between residents and researchers has benefits for all parties involved. Homeowners were given a chance to ask questions, and offered up information that ultimately made the data collection easier, and many times extremely enjoyable. Collaborations of this sort should be encouraged and hopefully expanded. As urban areas and urban populations expand globally, determining the unique floral composition of these novel habitats becomes increasingly important if we are to understand the ecosystem services they provide.