Human Impacts on Regional Avian Diversity and Abundance


Lepczyk, Christopher; Flather, Curtis H.; Radeloff, Volker; Pidgeon, Anna M.; Hammer, Roger B; Liu, Jianguo "Jack"

Journal or Book Title: Conservation Biology

Keywords: "Biodiversity" "Birds" "Ecosystem Stress" "Habitat Loss" "Human-doiminated Landscapes" "Species-Energy Relationship"

Volume/Issue: 22/2

Page Number(s): 405-416

Year Published: 2008


Patterns of association between humans and biodiversity typically show positive, negative, or negative quadratic relationships and can be described by 3 hypotheses: biologically rich areas that support high human population densities co-occur with areas of high biodiversity (productivity); biodiversity decreases monotonically with increasing human activities (ecosystem stress); and biodiversity peaks at intermediate levels of human influence (intermediate disturbance). To test these hypotheses, we compared anthropogenic land cover and housing units, as indices of human influence, with bird species richness and abundance across the Midwestern United States. We modeled richness of native birds with 12 candidate models of land cover and housing to evaluate the empirical evidence. To assess which species were responsible for observed variation in richness, we repeated our model-selection analysis with relative abundance of each native species as the response and then asked whether natural-history traits were associated with positive, negative, or mixed responses. Native avian richness was highest where anthropogenic land cover was lowest and housing units were intermediate based on model-averaged predictions among a confidence set of candidate models. Eighty-three of 132 species showed some pattern of association with our measures of human influence. Of these species approximately 40% were negatively associated, approximately 6% were positively associated, and approximately 7% showed evidence of an intermediate relationship with human influence measures. Naturalhistory traits were not closely related to the direction of the relationship between abundance and human influence. Nevertheless, pooling species that exhibited any relationship with human influence and comparing them with unrelated species indicated they were significantly smaller, nested closer to the ground, had shorter incubation and fledging times, and tended to be altricial. Our results support the ecosystem-stress hypothesis for the majority of individual species and for overall species diversity when focusing on anthropogenic land cover. Nevertheless, the great variability in housing units across the land-cover gradient indicates that an intermediate-disturbance relationship is also supported. Our findings suggest preemptive conservation action should be taken, whereby areas with little anthropogenic land cover are given conservation priority.

Nevertheless, conservation action should not be limited to pristine landscapes because our results showed that native avian richness and the relative abundance of many species peaked at intermediate housing densities and levels of anthropogenic land cover.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00881.x

Type of Publication: Journal Article