Proximity to urban fringe recreational facilities increases native biodiversity in an arid rangeland

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Rangeland Journal


© 2018 Australian Rangeland Society. Urban developments affect neighbouring ecosystems in multiple ways, usually decreasing native biodiversity. Arabian arid rangeland was studied to identify the primary causes of biodiversity variation. Al Marmoum is a 990 km2 area on the urban edge of Dubai, designated for ecological 'enhancement' and outdoor recreational use. The area lacks historical biodiversity data, but is thought to be primarily influenced by Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius Linnaeus, 1758) herbivory. Perennial floral and faunal diversity was assessed at 54 sites. Counts of reintroduced ungulates (Arabian oryx Oryx leucoryx (Pallas, 1777), Arabian gazelle Gazella gazella cora (C.H. Smith, 1827) and sand gazelle G. subgutturosa marica (Thomas, 1897)) were made at 79 separate sites. Correlations of observed biodiversity with substrate type, anthropogenic structures, and ungulate distribution were assessed. Native biodiversity was substantially higher in north-north-west locations near recreational facilities, with the most likely cause being differential browsing pressure. Camel browsing faced greater communal regulation in the north-north-west, whereas oryx and gazelles congregated at feed points in the south-south-east that were farther from human activity. Arid rangeland in this socioecological landscape exhibits greater natural biodiversity at the urban fringe. Human activity reduces ungulate density, enabling a greater diversity of perennial flora, which then attracts non-ungulate fauna. Anthropogenic features can therefore offer conservation value in landscapes where ungulate populations are artificially elevated.

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