Non-Indigenous Species and Urban Biodiversity: From Generic Models To Practical Management

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The project aims to develop strategies for remediation and management of urban habitats. It will:

  • Quantify characteristics of urban environments that underlie the observed higher plant diversity.
  • Assess the relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous diversity to predict how changes in urbanisation differently affect these two components of urban floras.
  • Compare the distribution of indigenous and non-indigenous plant diversity at a national and local scale thus identifying generic and specific processes underlying urban plant species diversity.
  • Undertake comparative analyses of ecological traits of non-indigenous floras to identify whether these reflect particular species traits (seedbank persistence, means of introduction)
  • Interpret ecological traits in relation to environmental variables identified at national and regional scales to predict the extent that urbanisation filters the pool of potential plant colonists
  • Assess the impact of selected non-indigenous species on the community structure of both plants and insects within a single urban habitat type.




The project involves the integration of statistical modelling GIS and field surveys using a hierarchical research strategy with analyses undertaken at national regional and local scales to produce generic insights. The project will aim to diagnose potential impacts of non-indigenous plant species in order to deliver clear guidelines to end users through testing of the following key hypotheses:

  • Urbanisation will act to reduce indigenous species diversity yet increase the diversity of non-indigenous plants
  • The magnitude of these changes in diversity will be modified by climate and landscape heterogeneity
  • The ecological traits of non-indigenous plant species in England and Wales will differ in relation to the strength of their association with urban habitats
  • The spatial distribution of non-indigenous species within a conurbation will reflect the interaction between their ecological traits and the characteristics of urban micro-environments
  • Urban plant communities will reveal assembly rules associated with non-indigenous species
  • Invertebrate diversity will be influenced by the non-indigenous element in urban plant communities

The project will study these hypotheses through an examination of:

  • Urbanisation and plant species diversity: National Patterns
  • Urbanisation and plant species diversity: Regional Patterns
  • The ecological traits of urban non-indigenous plant species
  • Non-indigenous plant species and the biodiversity of urban habitats

Start date/duration

September 1999 2 years and 4 months

Lead Organisation

University of Durham

University of Birmingham

CEH Monkswood

CEH Furzebrook


  • Predictive models of the effect of land use and/or climate change on indigenous and non-indigenous flora at national scales and also specifically for the West Midlands Conurbation.
  • Analytical tools to characterise and diagnose the impact of non-indigenous plant species upon ecological communities in the urban environment
  • A classification scheme for appraising invertebrate biodiversity of urban habitats containing non-indigenous plant species
  • Guidelines for the evaluation and management of sites containing non- indigenous species
  • A handbook for the management of non-indigenous species in urban design and creative conservation programmes
  • Independent verification of outputs from related URGENT research projects


West Midlands Conurbation

Further details

Further information is available from the following contacts:

Lead Researcher: Dr Philip Hulme

Tel: 0191 3743353, Email:

URGENT Programme Manager: Graham Leeks

Tel: 01491 692203, Fax: 01491 692313, e-mail: