Researchers have discovered that homes in wealthier neighborhoods contain a greater diversity of arthropods. This “luxury effect” also extends to other plant and animal species. The findings are in a paper just published in the journal Biology Letters.
The “luxury effect” is a phenomenon in which higher income areas have a greater diversity of plants and animals. Affluent neighborhoods are more likely to contain a variety of vegetation due to gardens and landscaping. This diversity of plants allows a greater range of animals to live in the area. Past studies have focused on species outside of the home, including bats, birds, and reptiles. Researchers from the California Academy of Sciences and North Carolina State University decided to focus their investigation on the inside of the home.
The research team conducted surveys of 50 houses in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. They collected arthropods (a phylum that includes insects, spiders, and crustaceans) and noted how many different families were represented. The team also recorded income, type of landscaping, size of property, and other factors.
The researchers found that arthropod biodiversity was directly linked with income level. Homes in affluent neighborhoods had up to 100 different arthropod families. Houses in a lower income bracket, on the other hand, had about 50 families on average. Interestingly, the level of diversity remained high for wealthier areas, even if the home in question lacked landscaping. The authors attributed this to the diversity of foliage in the neighborhood.
Wealthy neighborhoods tend to contain a greater variety of plant species due to landscaping, gardens, and parks. This leads to a greater biodiversity of animal species, including arthropods in the home. Most of these arthropods are harmless non-pest species. These findings suggest that homeowner and neighborhood choices play a large role in the diversity of species found in the area. Simply planting a garden is enough to attract a wider range of animals.
Misha Leong et al. Exoskeletons and economics: indoor arthropod diversity increases in affluent neighbourhoods. Biology Letters (2016).