The functional composition of the neophytic flora changes in response to environmental conditions along a rural-urban gradient.
Compared to rural environments, cities are known to be extraordinarily rich in plant species. In particular, the proportion of alien plant species is higher in urban areas. This is attributed to specific urban conditions, which provide a large variety of habitats due to high geological heterogeneity. It can also be attributed to the role of cities as centres for plant introductions and the consequential increased propagule pressure. Neophytes, alien plant species introduced after the discovery of the Americas, appear to contribute especially strongly to the increased proportion of alien plants in cities. To investigate whether the plant traits of neophytes can be explained by environmental variables, we modelled the composition of their pollination types and growth forms as well as their diaspore weight and the onset of flowering in response to a selection of climatic, geological, land cover and traffic network variables with data from Germany. To test for a specific urban effect, we included their interactions with the area of urban land use. In general, we found that climatic variables were the most important predictors for all traits. However, when considering interactions with urbanisation, non-climatic variables, which often were not significant as the main effect, remained in the final models. This points to an existing 'urban effect'. However, it is much smaller compared to the purely climatic effects. We conclude that interferences and alterations mainly related to urbanisation and human activity in general are responsible for the different ecological processes found in cities compared to rural areas. In addition, we argue that considering functional traits is an appropriate way to identify the ecological mechanisms related to urbanisation.