FORT COLLINS, Colo., Nov.9, 2015 – Are birds that inhabit protected areas impacted by nearby housing developments? New studies say yes, they are.
Development of homes on private lands in natural settings and near national forests and parks continues to rise. National forests and other protected lands are crucial for sustaining our biological heritage. Despite their importance, there is little information about the impacts of housing development at the boundary of protected lands and on the natural resources found within them.
This project looked at six regional areas. “We were first interested in determining whether housing near protected areas had any detectable effect on bird abundance and diversity,” said co-author Anna Pidgeon, a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The researchers found that bird species that tolerate and benefit from human activity were more abundant, more diverse, and often non-native. Conversely, native bird species identified by state wildlife agencies to have the greatest conservation need were the most impacted. “This was perhaps the most surprising, and novel finding from the work,” said Eric Wood, the postdoctoral researcher that led this study and is now a faculty member at Cal State Los Angeles. “That housing development at the boundary can affect bird community dynamics within protected areas suggests that conservation practitioners are going to have to consider broader landscape effects in their management plans.”
Curt Flather, co-author and scientist with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, said that this first analysis “confirmed our hypothesis that avian biodiversity is negatively impacted as housing density increases near protected areas.” However, it raised a second question for the authors, how have bird community responses changed over time? “This second analysis provided evidence that increasing housing density over a 5-decade period has had increasingly negative impacts on the biodiversity conservation potential of these lands,” said Wood. This pattern was strongest in the more developed eastern forest systems and weaker in the more sparsely developed western landscapes. In the earlier study the researchers observed that landscapes with a longer history of human settlement tended to have negative impacts on birds and that negative relationship grew stronger with time.
Results also indicate that in many places, protected areas of the United States are more successful at harboring avian communities of conservation concern than the surrounding private lands and that development near protected areas can create a strain on the protected areas themselves. “These findings suggest that there may be important win-win opportunities for biodiversity conservation and managing the wildland-urban interface,” said Flather.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research serves the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs
Wood, Eric M.; Pidgeon, Anna M.; Radeloff, Volker C.; Helmers, David P.; Culbert, Patrick D.; Keuler, Nicholas S.; Flather, Curtis H. 2015. Long-term avian community response to housing development at the boundary of US protected areas: Effect size increases with time. Journal of Applied Ecology. 52: 1227-1236. http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/49208
Wood, Eric M.; Pidgeon, Anna M.; Radeloff, Volker C.; Helmers, David; Culbert, Patrick D.; Keuler, Nicholas S.; Flather, Curtis H. 2014. Housing development erodes avian community structure in U.S. protected areas. Ecological Applications. 24(6): 1445-1462. http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/46526
Pidgeon, Anna M.; Flather, Curtis H.; Radeloff, Volker C.; Lepczyk, Christopher A.; Keuler, Nicholas S.; Wood, Eric M.; Stewart, Susan I.; Hammer, Roger B. 2014. Systematic temporal patterns in the relationship between housing development and forest bird biodiversity. Conservation Biology. 28(5): 1291-1301. http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/47858
The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven units within the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development. RMRS maintains 14 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing parts of the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. RMRS also administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges and watersheds and maintains long-term research databases for these areas. While anchored in the geography of the West our research is global in scale. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs.
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