Relationships of structural characteristics and homeowner socioeconomics with urban vegetation and bird communities

Date

2018-05

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Abstract

Urbanization is rapidly modifying the earth in extensive and long-lasting ways, making urban ecology an increasingly important field. Because a significant portion of the urban landscape is comprised of residential yards, managing them for birds and other wildlife could alleviate some of the detrimental effects of the urbanization process. Bird diversity varies along the urban-rural gradient in response to development and anthropogenic factors, and so examining structural characteristics of the urban environment can enhance our understanding of urban ecosystem dynamics. Furthermore, homeowner characteristics can help explain the variable allocation of critical natural, socioeconomic, and cultural resources found throughout the cityscape. I collected neighborhood age, distance to the city center, human population density, average house price, income, education, canopy cover, and bird species richness and diversity data in 14 neighborhoods in Lubbock, Texas. I report how urban-rural gradient variables and vegetation cover correlate with breeding bird species. Because traditional urban-rural gradient measures can act as surrogates for the quantity and quality of vegetation provided in urban wildlife habitats, and since vegetation is considered the most important driver of fluctuations in bird communities, I assessed each variable’s predictive strength of different categories of bird species richness with and without the inclusion of canopy cover into multiple regression analyses. I found that exploiters were associated with age; adapters with age, distance, density, and canopy cover; and uncommon birds with density and age. Next, I determined whether homeowner socioeconomic indicators could improve the prediction of neighborhood canopy cover and bird diversity beyond the traditional urban-rural gradient measures by using hierarchical multiple regression analyses. I found canopy cover was associated with age, distance, density, house price, and income, and bird diversity was associated with age, distance, density, house price, income, and education. As long as humans continue to dominate the Earth, habitat loss, species endangerment, and biotic homogenization will persist, making wildlife conservation in fragmented landscapes an important topic for researchers and managers alike.

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Keywords

Urban bird, Urban ecology, Urban-rural gradients, Homeowner socioeconomics

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