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Data from: Predation risk shaped by habitat and landscape complexity in urban environments

Cite this dataset

Frey, David et al. (2019). Data from: Predation risk shaped by habitat and landscape complexity in urban environments [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Habitat loss and modification are hallmarks of anthropogenic ecosystems, but the consequences for ecosystem functions and services often remain unclear. Understanding these links in cities is complicated by strong but fine-scale differences in habitat structure among green space patches, and a high variance in habitat amount across urban landscapes. 2. We used airborne laser scanning (ALS) data to disentangle the effects of 3D woody habitat heterogeneity of urban home gardens, and woody habitat amount at four landscape spatial scales (50, 100, 250, 500 m), on the predation risk of artificial sentinel prey by birds and arthropods. 3. In both predator groups, and at all the investigated spatial scales, cross-scale interactive effects between garden habitat heterogeneity and habitat amount in the urban landscape were the main drivers of predation. Risk of bird predation by birds was highest in heterogeneous garden habitats, but only in densely built urban landscapes where habitat amount was low to intermediate (10-20%) at large spatial scales (250-500 m). It dropped independently of garden habitat heterogeneity when habitat amount became too low (<10%) at small (50-100 m) spatial scales. In contrast, risk of predation by arthropods mostly peaked in homogenous garden habitats when habitat amount was intermediate (20%) at large spatial scales. 4. Our findings show that the ability of urban green space patches to sustain ecosystem functions in cities mainly depends on cross-scale interactive effects with larger-scale habitat amount. In birds, predation risk can increase when high patch-scale habitat heterogeneity contrasts with reduced larger-scale habitat amount, suggesting concentration effects. Yet thresholds exist under which ecosystem functioning drops independently of habitat structure. 5. Synthesis and applications. The potential of small-scale interventions to enhance habitat heterogeneity (e.g. by planting native trees with understory shrubs) for restoring ecosystem functions such as bird predation in urban areas is dependent on wider landscape habitat structure. Urban planning should therefore adopt a multi-scale approach to sustain and restore ecosystem functions and services; a simple but still not broadly recognized finding. Airborne laser scanning is a useful tool to infer habitat structure across a hierarchy of scales in spatially heterogeneous anthropogenic ecosystems.

Usage notes


Central Europe
City of Zurich