Urban summer heat load: meteorological data as a proxy for metropolitan biodiversity
Kappes, Heike; Katzschner, Lutz; Nowak, Carsten
Regional climate models forecast that the incidence of extreme heat waves will increase in Central Europe, and the associated intensification of urban heat islands causes concerns about human health and biodiversity. We investigated species diversity of terrestrial gastropods across an urban gradient in a metropolitan area. We considered 34 sites of different degrees of urbanization and of different thermal stress classes (TSC) that were derived from a classification of urban heat load based on the physiological equivalent temperature (PET). A total of 31 species were recorded with 0-21 species per site (mean: 4.4 ± 5.2 species per site). Alpha diversity was best explained by TSC, bush cover and perennial vegetation cover, and it decreased with increasing thermal stress. Overall, thermal stress predicted snail and slug species richness better than urban cover (ANOVA(analysis of variance); TSC: F = 10.0, p < 0.001; urbanization: F = 3.9, p = 0.018), and the proportional loss in species richness was higher for native species than for introduced species. The results indicate that climatic stress contributes to the impoverishment of biodiversity in urban areas. We propose that TSC and/or PET are useful indicators for environmental stress levels in biodiversity studies in natural and anthropogenically transformed landscapes.