Development has been particularly strong on private lands near national forests, wilderness areas, and national parks where the attractiveness of these ‘natural’ settings is high. National Forests and other protected lands have long been known to be important in sustaining our biological heritage. Yet, we have little information to answer the question: “What are the potential impacts of housing development at the boundary of these protected lands on the natural resources found within them?” This project used readily available data on protected area locations, housing density, and bird communities in six large regional study areas (see map below) to address the question – does development at the boundary of protected areas impact bird communities?
A novel finding from these studies suggests that housing development near protected areas can strain or compromise the conservation of biodiversity within the protected areas.
Bird species that tolerate and benefit from human activity (often non-native species) were more abundant and diverse within protected areas where the housing densities on private lands at the protected area boundary were higher.
Similarly, native bird species of conservation concern had consistently lower abundances within protected areas when boundary area housing density was higher. This means that housing development at the perimeter or nearby to the protected areas was potentially impacting bird species biodiversity within the protected areas.
Findings from these studies indicate that greater consideration could be given by city and county planners regarding how home developments are designed and managed near protected areas. Innovative strategies for avian biodiversity conservation are needed to address existing and future housing development near protected areas to stem the erosion of biodiversity within protected areas.
Wood, E. M., A. M. Pidgeon, V. C. Radeloff, D. Helmers, P. D. Culbert, N. S. Keuler, and C. H. Flather. 2015. Housing development, protected areas, and avian community conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology 52:1227-1236.
Wood, E. M., A. M. Pidgeon, V. C. Radeloff, D. Helmers, P. D. Culbert, N. S. Keuler, and C. H. Flather. 2014. Housing development outside protected area boundaries erode avian community structure within. Ecological Applications 24:1445-1462.
Pidgeon, A. M., C. H. Flather, V. C. Radeloff, C. A. Lepczyk, S. I. Stewart, and R. B. Hammer. 2014. Systematic temporal patterns in the relationship of housing development with forest bird biodiversity. Conservation Biology 28:1291-1301.
Radeloff, V.C., S.I. Stewart, T.J. Hawbaker, U. Gimmi, A.M. Pidgeon, C.H. Flather, R.B. Hammer, and D.P. Helmers. 2010. Housing growth in and near United States protected areas limits their conservation value. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 107: 940-945.
Wilderness housing boom challenges conservation (T. De Chant; Per Square Time, 1 July 2011)
Housing developments choking wildlife around America’s national parks (J. Hance; Mongabay, 5 January 2010)