In urban ecosystems, trees and shrubs and the ecosystem functions and habitat they provide are controlled by humans. Development, landscaping, and maintenance processes all influence what tree and shrub species make up the vegetation community.
While vegetation communities on residential land uses are increasingly well studied, these efforts have not extended to other land uses, including commercial property. To fill this gap, I surveyed tree and shrub communities on office developments located in Redmond and Bellevue, Washington, USA.
I found that both tree and shrub communities on office developments are heterogeneous, with sites characterized by native or ornamental non-native tree and shrub vegetation.
The heterogeneity I observed in vegetation communities within one land use suggests that different ecosystem functions, habitat quality, and habitat quantities are provided on office developments. Greater provision of e.g. native conifer habitat is possible using currently existing developments as models.
Additionally, the outcome of development and landscaping decisions explained more variation in community composition than the socio-economic factors found significant on residential property. Together with previous research showing that residential property owner attitudes and actions are more important than socio-economic descriptors, my results suggest that individual motivators, including intended audience, may be the primary determinant of urban vegetation communities.
Future urban ecology research should consider sampling the vegetation gradient within land uses, better understanding individual motivation for vegetation management, and creating models of the urban ecosystems that account for alternate decision pathways on different land uses.