Native plants in urban landscapes: A biological imperative

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Urban populations rely on a suite of ecosystem services generally provided by the ecological function of natural areas. But the expansion of urban environments and growing suburban or exurban neighborhoods often necessitates destruction of those natural areas for development supporting a growing urban populace. Ecological impacts from development reduce regional biodiversity and negatively affect the ability of remaining natural areas to provide goods and services critical to people. Secondary impacts to biodiversity also occur at broad geographic scales through commodity production supporting urban centers. For example, agricultural production often involves creating agroeconomic systems based largely on farming a limited number of species, and commonly relegates biological diversity to small patches of land deemed unsuitable for crops. Such practices exacerbate the negative biological effects inherent in urban development and drastically increase the need for urban populations to address biological diversity within municipalities. Residents are becoming progressively knowledgeable about environmental issues and are expressing values and concerns to local and regional managing agencies. Governments are responding to public pressure through recommendations intended to reduce resource use, improve wildlife habitat, and provide a local aesthetic. Although the appropriateness of native plants in urban settings is often questioned, the use of regionally specific native vegetation is identified as one method to meet those recommendations. Native plants as primary landscape elements have the added benefit of increasing biodiversity and creating environments capable of providing ecosystem goods and services within urban environments.

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