The global decline in biodiversity as a result of urbanization remains poorly understood. Whereas habitat destruction accounts for losses at the species level, it may not explain diversity loss at the community level, because urban centers also attract synanthropic species that do not necessarily exist in wildlands. Here we suggest an alternative framework for understanding this phenomenon: the competitive exclusion of native, non-synanthropic species by invasive species. We use data from two urban centers (Phoenix and Baltimore) and two taxa (birds and spiders) to link diversity loss with reduced community evenness among species in urban communities. This reduction in evenness may be caused by a minority of invasive species dominating the majority of the resources, consequently excluding nonsynanthropic species that could otherwise adapt to urban conditions. We use foraging efficiency as a mechanism to explain the loss of diversity. Thus, to understand the effects of habitat conversion on biodiversity, and to sustain species-rich communities, future research should give more attention to interspecific interactions in urban settings.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3