The role of dispersal and local environment in urban land snail 5 assemblages: an example of three cities in Central Italy

Debora Barbato, Andrea Benocci, Tancredi Caruso, Giuseppe Manganelli

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Ecologists increasingly appreciate the central role that urban biodiversity plays in ecosystems, however much urban biodiversity is neglected, especially some very diverse groups of invertebrates. For the first time in southern Europe, land snail communities are analysed in four urban habitats along a geographical gradient of three cities, using quantitative methods and assessing the relative roles of local environmental conditions, (“distance from sea”, “distance from city centre", “vegetation cover”) and spatial effects by principal coordinate analysis of neighbour matrices, redundancy analysis and variation partitioning. A total of 53 species was recorded, a richness similar to that of natural areas. At habitat level, species richness did not show a clear increasing trend from more to less urbanized habitats, but rather a homogeneous pattern. At city level, study areas hosted rather heterogeneous species assemblages and biotic homogenization did not seem to have any impact; thus, only three species could be considered alien. Variation partitioning showed that land snail communities were mostly structured by environmental factors, even when spatial structures independent of measured environmental variables were included: “vegetation cover” and “distance from city centre” were the environmental variables that explained most of the variation in species composition. The lack of strong spatial structure also unexpectedly suggested that transport by humans aids dispersal of organism with low mobility, which are usually limited by spatial constraints in natural environments. These results provides ecological and conservation implications for other invertebrate groups, suggesting to set priorities in management strategies that include habitat conservation at local scale.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Early online date12 Jan 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 12 Jan 2017


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