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Urban Bird Diversity and Landscape Complexity: Species–environment Associations Along a Multiscale Habitat Gradient

Stephanie Melles, University of Toronto
Susan M Glenn, Gloucester County College
Kathy Martin, University of British Columbia


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For birds in urban environments, the configuration of local habitat within the landscape may be as critical as the composition of the local habitat itself. We examined the relative importance of environmental attributes (e.g., tree cover, composition, and number of tree species) measured at different spatial scales in relation to urban bird species richness and abundance. We expected that some bird species and nesting guilds would have a closer association with landscape-level features (within 1000 m), such as proximity to large forested areas, than with local-scale habitat measures (within 50 m). To investigate this, avian community data were collected at 285 point-count stations in 1997 and 1998 along four roadside transects located in Vancouver and Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Transects (5–25 km in length) bisected three large parks (>324 ha) and proceeded along residential streets in urban and suburban areas. In total, 48 bird species were observed, including 25 common species. Species richness declined in relation to a gradient of increasing urbanization, as measured by local- and landscape-level habitat features. We further examined the significance and importance of local- vs. landscape-level habitat attributes using logistic regression and found that both scales explained the presence/absence distributions of residential birds. Local-scale habitat features such as large coniferous trees, berry-producing shrubs, and freshwater streams were of particular importance in estimating the likelihood of finding bird species. Landscape measures, particularly forest cover (within 500 m) and park area (measured at different scales as a function of distance from point-count stations) significantly improved likelihood estimations based solely on local-scale habitat features. Our results suggest that both local- and landscape-scale resources were important in determining the distribution of birds in urban areas. Parks, reserves, and the surrounding residential areas should be integrated into urban planning and development designs to maintain resident avifauna and overall species diversity in urban environments.

Key words

bird response to urbanization, bird species diversity, British Columbia, canonical correspondence analysis, Greater Vancouver, local vs. landscape scales, logistic regression, sequential logistic regression, site occurrence, source habitat, urban habitat gradient

Copyright © 2003 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087