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The conservation value of residential yards: linking birds and people

Susannah B. Lerman and Paige S. Warren
Ecological Applications
Vol. 21, No. 4 (June 2011), pp. 1327-1339
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23022999
Page Count: 13
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The conservation value of residential yards: linking birds and people
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Abstract

Urbanization is recognized as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity throughout the world. However, the vegetation within an urbanized landscape is diverse and includes a variety of native and exotic plant species. This variation allows for testing whether certain landscape designs outperform others in the support of native biodiversity. 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. In addition, many urbanites have their primary interaction with the natural world in their front and back yards. Therefore, ensuring positive wildlife experiences for them is essential in promoting urban biodiversity. At the Central Arizona—Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research site we tested the efficacy of native landscaping in residential yards in attracting native birds. We 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. We also found that residents' satisfaction with bird diversity was positively correlated with actual bird diversity. 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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