Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 625–634 | Cite as

Landscape urbanization threatens plant phylogenetic diversity in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

  • Valdecir Silva-Junior
  • Danielle G. Souza
  • Rubens T. Queiroz
  • Luiz G. R. Souza
  • Elâine M. S. Ribeiro
  • Bráulio A. SantosEmail author


Urbanization causes species loss around the world, but its effects on phylogenetic diversity are poorly known in tropical forests. Using a patch-landscape approach in an urbanizing region of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, we tested whether the increase in landscape urbanization reduces plant species density, phylogenetic richness and divergence, and increases the relatedness among co-occurring individuals and species. We assessed plant responses to urbanization in adult (diameter at breast height > 10 cm) and sapling communities (2.5–10 cm diameter) separately, as saplings are proxies of the future flora. We sampled 2860 woody plants belonging to 155 species in nine circular landscapes with urbanization level varying from 0% to 45%, and estimated the relatedness among the species that have increased and decreased in relative abundance in more urbanized landscapes (winner and losers, respectively). As expected, species density and phylogenetic richness decreased with the increase in urbanization. These responses were consistent for adult and sapling communities, suggesting a persistent loss of species and lineages in more urbanized landscapes. Contrary to our expectations, phylogenetic divergence and structure did not respond to urbanization, indicating that the more urbanized landscapes still retain much evolutionary history. However, because the relatedness among winners was greater than among losers, it is likely that the phylogenetic divergence gradually reduces and the relatedness increases, resulting in impoverished forests with uncertain ability to provide ecosystem services such as carbon storage and pest control. This environmental cost should be taken into account to align urban sprawl with biodiversity conservation.


Cities Habitat loss Ontogenetic stage Relatedness Tropical forest Trees 



This work was supported by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) (grant numbers 476135/2013-3 and 310340/2016-0 to BAS). CNPq also provided graduate scholarship to VSJ (130604/2015-1) and postdoctoral fellowship to DGS (313272/2015-8). We thank the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio) and the Paraíba Environment Administration (SUDEMA) for authorization to carry out the fieldwork within the protected areas. We are also grateful to Pamela Stevens for producing the figure of the study area and Orione Alvares da Silva for discussing ideas and supporting fieldwork. Nicholas Williams and an anonymous reviewer provided valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

11252_2018_745_MOESM1_ESM.doc (29 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 29 kb)
11252_2018_745_MOESM2_ESM.doc (266 kb)
ESM 2 (DOC 266 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valdecir Silva-Junior
    • 1
  • Danielle G. Souza
    • 2
  • Rubens T. Queiroz
    • 2
  • Luiz G. R. Souza
    • 3
  • Elâine M. S. Ribeiro
    • 4
  • Bráulio A. Santos
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biologia VegetalUniversidade Federal de PernambucoRecifeBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Sistemática e EcologiaUniversidade Federal da ParaíbaJoão PessoaBrazil
  3. 3.Departamento de BotânicaUniversidade Federal de PernambucoRecifeBrazil
  4. 4.Colegiado de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade de Pernambuco, Campus PetrolinaPetrolinaBrazil

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