The biodiversity loss resulting from rising levels of human impacts on ecosystems has been extensively discussed over the last years. The expansion of urban areas promotes drastic ecological changes, especially through fragmentation of natural areas. Natural grassland remnants surrounded by an urban matrix are more likely to undergo disturbance events. Since grassland ecosystems are closely related to disturbances such as fire and grazing, grassland plant communities, pollinators, and their interaction networks may be especially sensitive to urban expansion, because it promotes habitat fragmentation and modifies disturbance regimes. This work evaluated the effect of the level of urbanization and recent history of fire disturbance on grassland plants communities and plant-floral visitor mutualistic networks. We sampled plant communities and floral visitors in 12 grassland sites with different levels of urbanization and time since the last fire event. Sites with higher levels of urbanization showed higher values for plant species richness, floral visitor richness, and network asymmetry. All sampled networks were significantly nested (with one exception), asymmetric, and specialized. In addition, all networks presented more modules than expected by chance. The frequency of fire disturbance events increased with the level of urbanization. Since grassland ecosystems depend on disturbances to maintain their structure and diversity, we inferred that the history of fire disturbance was the mechanism behind the relationship between urbanization and our biological descriptors. Our findings highlight the importance of small and isolated grassland remnants as conservation assets within urban areas, and that the disturbance events that such sites are submitted to may in fact be what maintains their diversity on multiple levels.
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