1 Tahrcountry Musings: Residential yards and conservation

Friday, September 23, 2011

Residential yards and conservation

The conservation value of residential yards: linking birds and people

Susannah B. Lerman and Paige S. Warren
Ecological Applications 21:1327–1339 Volume 21, Issue 4 (June 2011)

I found this paper very interesting. It gives a chance to look at urban wildlife from a new perspective.
Urbanization is undoubtedly one of the key drivers of loss of biodiversity throughout the world. In spite of this fact,the vegetation within an urbanized landscape is diverse.

The authors of this paper say this diverse vegetation gives a chance for testing whether certain landscape designs are better suited than others to support native biodiversity. They add that residential yards represent a large component of an urban landscape and, if managed collectively for birds and other wildlife, could offset some of the negative effects of urbanization.

Many urbanites have their primary interaction with the natural world in their front and back yards. Ensuring positive wildlife experiences for them is a key element in promoting urban biodiversity.
At the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research site the researchers tested the efficacy of native landscaping in residential yards in attracting native birds. They also explored the links between socioeconomic factors, landscape designs, and urban gradient measurements with the urban bird communities.

 A redundancy analysis suggested that native desert bird species increased in abundance in neighborhoods with desert landscaping designs, neighborhoods closer to large desert tracts, and higher-income neighborhoods.
Variance partitioning showed that collectively these three sets of environmental variables explained almost 50% of the variation in the urban bird community. 

Results suggested racial and economic inequities in access to biodiversity, whereby predominantly Hispanic and lower-income neighborhoods had fewer native birds. They also found that residents' satisfaction with bird diversity was positively correlated with actual bird diversity.

The researchers conclude with the following words “Our study provides new insights into the relative importance of socioeconomic variables and common urban ecological measurements in explaining urban bird communities. Urban planners can use this information to develop residential landscapes that support the well-being of both birds and people.”

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