Patterns of Species Diversity in Eight Northeastern United States Cities

by Steven E. Clemants and Gerry Moore

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11225

Published online June 24, 2003


In this paper, the native and nonnative floras of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, and St. Louis urban areas are compared and overall native diversity and nonnative diversity are correlated with a variety of factors. A total of 4,159 species has been reported in the eight urban areas. Of these, 2,708 (65.1%) are native to one or more of the urban areas and 1,451 (34.9%) are nonnative. Only 316 (11.6%) of the native species and only 109 (7.5%) of the nonnative species are common to all of the urban areas. When the similarity of native species is compared, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., form a cluster, as do Detroit, Chicago, and Minneapolis; St. Louis is least similar to the other seven urban areas. Correlating climatic variables (growing season, temperature) and geographical variables (area, latitude, longitude) with species richness showed that nonnative species richness was most strongly correlated with longitude (probably as a function of age of settlement). This is in contrast with past research on native species showing a strong correlation of native species richness with latitude and elevations due to climatic differences present at different latitudes and elevations. Further studies that incorporate data from additional urban areas are needed to determine if nonnative species richness continues to be strongly correlated with time of a city's settlement.