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Urban EcologyPatterns, Processes, and Applications$
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Jari Niemelä, Jürgen H. Breuste, Thomas Elmqvist, Glenn Guntenspergen, Philip James, and Nancy E. McIntyre

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199563562

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563562.001.0001

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Vegetation of Urban Hard Surfaces

Vegetation of Urban Hard Surfaces

Chapter:
(p.93) Chapter 2.3 Vegetation of Urban Hard Surfaces
Source:
Urban Ecology
Author(s):

Jeremy Lundholm

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199563562.003.0012

Urban areas are dominated by hard surfaces, yet these are colonized by many plant species. Walls and pavements are characterized by extremely shallow soil, often in narrow cracks. Stone walls are the best investigated of these habitats, and can support many species of vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, and algae, including habitat specialists. The environmental characteristics differ according to building materials, and the overall context of the site: sun vs. shade, free standing walls vs. building walls, degree of trampling, and overall climate, and all of these factors exert a strong influence on the vegetation. Due to extremely shallow substrates for rooting, wall vegetation is scarce in arid environments, but can be quite lush where moisture is ample. Walls and pavements support species that originate in rock outcrop or similar habitats, as well as generalist, ‘weedy’ species common in urban areas. Some of the same species occur in hard surface habitats in different regions or continents, suggesting that the types of habitats created by building activities are consistent and repeated features of the urban environment. This vegetation can support rare species, making it valuable for biodiversity conservation, and green roofs and living walls are increasingly designed to provide ecosystem services. While there are benefits provided by hard surface vegetation, vegetation colonization of hard surfaces is often considered a nuisance in cities. Most studies of these habitats have been done in Europe, so there is a need to examine walls and pavements in other continents, especially given rapid global rates of urbanization.

Keywords:   moisture, habitat specialists, urban plants, rock outcrops, stone walls, pavements, conservation, bryophytes, lichens

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