Provincial and cosmopolitan: floristic composition of a dryland urban river

Juliet Stromberg, Elizabeth Makings, Amy Eyden, Robert Madera, John Samsky, Francis S. Coburn, Brenton D. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


High rates of intercontinental exchange of plant species have caused scientists to ask whether floristic areas with similar environments are undergoing global homogenization. We focused on riparian forests of the urban Salt River (Sonoran Desert, USA) to ask: (1) Is the forest dominated by cosmopolitan or provincial elements? (2) Which trees planted in the irrigated cityscape have established along the river? (3) Which types of restoration interventions have favored provincial species? We surveyed tree abundance, size and vigor in belt transects among five reaches that differed in degree of restoration, and obtained data on tree species composition of the urban landscape and pre-development riparian zone. Our results reveal the urban riparian forest to have many cosmopolitan elements, owing in part to spillover of trees from the cultivated cityscape (e.g., Acacia stenophylla, Vitex agnus-castus). Global spread of some regional (Neotropical) riparian taxa (e.g., Parkinsonia aculeata, Prosopis) also has contributed to the cosmopolitan status. Yet, the forests retain a distinct regional signature. Unintentional restoration of winter floods has allowed for regeneration of Salix gooddingii, a vernally-adapted provincial pioneer, although its long-term survivorship is restricted to limited micro-sites (storm drain outfalls). Urbanization-related changes in stream hydrogeomorphology explain increases in some regional species (e.g., Washingtonia spp.) that historically were excluded from the river. Reaches restored by planting, weeding, watering, and geocountouring had the greatest abundance of provincial species and greatest floristic similarity to historic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-453
Number of pages25
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Arid region
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Plant community
  • Riparian forest
  • Urban river

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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