, Volume 10, Issue 12, pp 2023-2043

A habitat island approach to conserving birds in urban landscapes: case studies from southern and northern Europe

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Abstract

Wildlife conservation in urban habitats is increasingly important due to current urbanization trends. We review the different approaches to studying birds in urban landscapes, and point out the importance of the habitat island ecological theory as a research framework for the management and conservation of urban birds. Based on two comprehensive research projects conducted at urban parks in Spain (Madrid) and Finland (Oulu and Rovaniemi), several different issues related to bird conservation in cities are discussed, main findings of these projects are presented, and future research needs are suggested. Urban parks are important biodiversity hotspots in cities. Fragmentation conditions have the same deleterious effects to urban birds as in other fragmented landscapes. Park size accounts for species accumulation in urban parks; this pattern being highly nested. Urban parks of 10–35 ha would contain most of the species recorded in cities, but other indicators related to the probabilities of persistence of the target species should be obtained. Wooded streets can increase urban landscape connectivity by providing alternative habitat for feeding and nesting during the breeding season. Because increasing the size of parks is difficult in cities, enhancement of habitat diversity and resource availability for birds within parks (e.g. nest boxes, winter feeding tables, etc.) appears to be a straightforward way of increasing urban bird diversity. However, human disturbance (pedestrians) should be controlled since it can negatively influence many urban birds. We present a conceptual model for urban bird conservation, which includes three aspects (management, environmental education and research) and new alternatives to promote the involvement of different sectors of the society.