Drivers of spatial variation in plant diversity across the Central Arizona-Phoenix ecosystem

Diane Hope, Corinna Gries, David Casagrande, Charles Redman, Nancy Grimm, Chris Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


We examined how growth of the Phoenix urban landscape has changed spatial patterns in native Sonoran desert plant diversity. Combining data from the U.S. Census with a probability-based field inventory, we used spatial and multivariate statistics to show how plant diversity across the region is influenced by human actions. Spatial variations in plant diversity among sites were best explained by current and former land use, income, housing age, and elevation. Despite similar average diversity in perennial plant genera between desert and urban sites, numerous imported exotics have significantly increased variation in plant generic composition among urban sites, with a "luxury effect" of higher plant diversity at sites in wealthier neighborhoods. We conclude that controls on natural spatially autocorrelated desert plant diversity are replaced by a variable suite of site-specific human factors and legacy effects, which require an integration of ecology and social science to be fully understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Desert
  • Geomorphic template
  • Integrated field survey
  • Perennial plant genera
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • Spatial statistics
  • Urban ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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