Assessment of the Conservation Status of Natural and Semi-Natural Patches Associated with urbanAreasThroughHabitat Suitability Indices

Document Type: Original Research Paper

10.22059/ijer.2015.923

Abstract

Urban environments rely on the surrounding natural ecosystems remnants as providers of ecosystem
functions, therefore these areas not only support a unique biodiversity but also have a social value for maintaining
public health andwellbeing. For this reason, urbanization is considered to be one the biggest threats to ecosystems,
leading to native biodiversity simplification and, thus, to a detriment of the provided ecosystemservices.Moreover,
this change in land use results in high levels of landscape fragmentation and modification in areas surrounding the
habitat remnantswhich, in consequence, become inadequate formany native species. In this context, it is important
that urban planners have the information to assess the possible consequences of future changes in land use in
order to increase the landscape chances of supporting both, native biodiversity and the needs of a growing human
population. The objective of the present work is to evaluate the ecological integrity of natural and semi-natural
vegetation patches immersed in an urban area in order to generate a conceptual framework for landscape
assessment that allows urban planners to envision the best choice for city development at a given place. To do so,
we developed a quantitative integral environmental evaluation index that includes ecological characterization,
geological characterization, and environmental characterization (presence of anthropic disturbance) of the assessed
area. We conclude that the index we have generated in this work is suitable to be used as a management tool to
allow an unbiased valuation and to identify managing situations that require a short term response.

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