Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2014 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Land use history and time since demolition interact to drive divergent patterns of herbaceous plant community composition and diversity in vacant lots.
Johnson, Anna
Co-Authors: Anna L. Johnson and Christopher M. Swan

Abstract: Despite high levels of disturbance and habitat modification, urban ecosystems still host a substantial amount of biodiversity. The processes that maintain these existing levels of diversity, however, remain understudied. In this study we consider all three fundamental components of biodiversity--taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity--to explore how urban land use legacies impact urban plant community development over time. We constructed a chronosequence of vacant lot properties covering a range of 2-22 years since demolition, based on a combination of city archival property documents and historic aerial photographs for 29 properties located in an urban neighborhood in Baltimore, MD. Surveys of herbaceous plant abundance were conducted during the summers of 2012 and 2013, in sections of each vacant lot where the building previously stood (the "building footprint") and sections of the lot that was previously a backyard or garden (the "remnant garden"). We found that while the diversity of the building footprint either decreased over time or did not change, diversity in remnant gardens--especially in terms of functional and phylogenetic metrics--increased over time. We also found significant shifts in functional composition over time that differed between building footprints and remnant gardens. We discuss our results in light of management concerns for urban vacant land.