Now, researchers led by co-first authors Paige S. Warren at UMass Amherst and Susannah B. Lerman of the USDA Forest Service, with Riley Andrade, Kelli Larson and Heather Bateman of Arizona State University, report on results from their long-term monitoring of birds in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Details appear in the current online issue of Ecosphere.
The study looked at bird communities over time in relation to habitat, societal factors, human responses and bird populations. Findings suggest that although the presence of bird species, bird abundance and the number of bird species all decreased over time, in areas where homeowners provided desert landscaping -- fine gravel and drought-tolerant, desert-adapted vegetation -- some desert specialist birds such as verdin and cactus wren could still be found.
Researchers - Factors - Species - Diversity - Example
The researchers also report observing socio-economic factors associated with species diversity. For example, the desert-like landscaping types and desert specialist bird species occurred more frequently in neighborhoods with higher per-capita incomes and lower percentages of renters and Hispanic/Latinx residents. Warren notes that including socioeconomic factors has become more common recently, but it's still unusual. Their earlier work "was truly ground-breaking with respect to including socioeconomic factors," she says.
"The fact that all kinds of species were declining is particularly surprising and troubling to us," says Lerman. However, Warren adds, "Our results suggest that if we could find ways to encourage homeowners to provide more areas with desert-like plantings, there are opportunities to retain the richness of bird species, even in people's back yards."
Doug - Levey - NSF - Long-Term - Ecological
Doug Levey, an NSF Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program director, says, "It's surprising and worrisome that birds are declining in neighborhoods that appear otherwise unchanged. Something is going on and these scientists are well on the way to figuring it out."
As noted, this study built upon an earlier investigation in the same area by Warren and...
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