The newly-constructed Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (California, USA) were purposefully built to attract wildlife. In this study we wanted to find out to what extent this manufactured environment is successful in attracting native insect fauna to the urban core of the city when compared to the surrounding neighborhoods or natural areas on the periphery of Los Angeles. To determine this, a one-year Malaise trap catch from the Nature Gardens was compared with samples from four neighboring sites within a five-kilometer radius, as well as a site adjacent to natural habitat located sixteen kilometers away. Our analysis focused on the diversity and abundance of three pollinator groups: bees, flower flies and butterflies contrasted with a single non-pollinator group: scuttle flies.
Our findings show that the Nature Gardens support greater abundance and diversity than any of the nearby sites or the natural site for all pollinator taxa examined. In contrast, the natural site supported much higher abundance and diversity of the non-pollinator scuttle flies when compared to the Nature Gardens. Calculated evenness of all taxa was lower in the Nature Gardens than at the natural site and Shannon Diversity indices were highest in the Nature Gardens for flower flies and butterflies, but lower in the Nature Gardens than at the natural site for bees and scuttle flies. These results indicate that biodiversity in an urban environment can be selectively manipulated through management of green spaces, but may not duplicate the communities found in natural spaces. Rather, targeted management (through plantings, ground cover and other substrates, watering, pest management techniques, etc.) can increase fauna predictively to create a “wildlife spectacle” of charismatic microfauna.
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