The choices city dwellers make when deciding which plants to cultivate in their gardens or yards could affect the function and health of the wider plant ecosystem.

Sonja Knapp at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Halle, Germany, and her group compared the characteristics and diversity of plants in 137 residential yards with those of a nearby nature reserve. They found that yard plant species were more closely related to each other, shorter-lived, faster-growing and more likely to be self-pollinating.

As yard plants spread into natural habitats, the ability of those ecosystems to respond to environmental change could be reduced, the authors say.

Ecology (2012)