Biodiversity and socioeconomics in the city: a review of the luxury effect

The ecological dynamics of cities are influenced not only by geophysical and biological factors, but also by aspects of human society. In cities around the world, a pattern of higher biodiversity in affluent neighbourhoods has been termed 'the luxury effect'. The luxury effect has been found globally regarding plant diversity and canopy or vegetative cover. Fewer studies have considered the luxury effect and animals, yet it has been recognized in the distributions of birds, bats, lizards and indoor arthropods. Higher socioeconomic status correlates with higher biodiversity resulting from many interacting factors-the creation and maintenance of green space on private and public lands, the tendency of both humans and other species to favour environmentally desirable areas, while avoiding environmental burdens, as well as enduring legacy effects. The luxury effect is amplified in arid cities and as neighbourhoods age, and reduced in tropical areas. Where the luxury effect exists, benefits of urban biodiversity are unequally distributed, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods with higher minority populations. The equal distribution of biodiversity in cities, and thus the elimination of the luxury effect, is a worthy societal goal.