Biodiversity conservation in a fast-growing metropolitan area in China: a case study of plant diversity in Beijing.
As the capital of China, Beijing has experienced extensive urbanization in the past two decades. To explore the effect of urbanization on plant diversity, we investigated the vascular plant diversity of the whole Beijing Municipality in three different functional (urban, suburban and exurban) regions. For its geo-diversity, Beijing has a rather abundant vascular plant diversity (2,276 species), including 207 species of conservation concern such as endemic, threatened and protected species. The exurban region had not only the highest species diversity (1,998 species), but also the most species of conservation concern (194 species). Urban region possessed the maximum alien species in terms of both absolute number and proportional representation, while the suburban region had the least species diversity (1,026 species). Some problems, such as wetland shrink and biological invasions, were common in the whole Beijing Municipality. However, primary threats to biodiversity differed in the three functional regions. The urban and suburban regions mainly suffered from habitat loss and fragmentation due to urban sprawl, while the exurban region faced serious ecosystem degradation from increasing disturbance from both local and urban people. Based on our investigation, we put forward conservation strategies for the three regions: improving the structure and ecological function of green spaces in urban region, preserving as much remnant natural habitats in the suburban region, and restricting the rural tourism and establishing a biosphere reserve in the exurban region. In addition, improving public education and orientating that more to social aspects of conservation practice is strongly recommended.