Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 99–117

Relative importance of habitat quantity, structure, and spatial pattern to birds in urbanizing environments


    • Biology DepartmentOglethorpe University
  • John M. Marzluff
    • Biology DepartmentOglethorpe University

DOI: 10.1007/s11252-006-7904-2

Cite this article as:
Donnelly, R. & Marzluff, J.M. Urban Ecosyst (2006) 9: 99. doi:10.1007/s11252-006-7904-2


Urbanization reduces the quantity of native vegetation and alters its local structure and regional spatial pattern. These changes cause local extirpations of bird species associated with native vegetation and increases in the abundance and number of bird species associated with human activity. We used 54–1 km2 landscapes in the Seattle, Washington, USA metropolitan area to determine (1) the relative importance of habitat quantity, structure, and pattern to bird diversity and abundance and (2) whether housing developments can be managed to mitigate the negative impacts of urbanization on forest bird diversity. In general, bird species richness was high and many native forest species were retained where urban landcover comprised less than 52% of the landscape, tree density (especially that of evergreens) remained at least 9.8 trees/ha in developments, and forest was at least 64% aggregated across the landscape. These results suggest that the quantity, structure, and pattern of forested habitat affected breeding bird diversity in urbanizing landscapes. However, habitat pattern appeared less influential than other habitat attributes when results from all community- and population-level analyses were considered. Conservation of native birds in reserves can be supplemented by managing the amount, composition, structural complexity, and—to a lesser extent—arrangement of vegetation in neighborhoods.



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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2006