Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 45–60 | Cite as

Avian diversity in a suburban park system: current conditions and strategies for dealing with anticipated change

  • Scott A. RushEmail author
  • Tom Romito
  • Terry L. Robison


A growing trend towards increased urbanization emphasizes the role of suburban parks in wildlife conservation. Spatial planning aimed at maintaining biological diversity and functionality must consider how changes at landscape and more local scales will influence the biotic structure of urban areas. From May 2006 to July 2010, bird surveys were conducted in three metropolitan parks in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Surveys were conducted with the goal of examining the effect of vegetation structure and adjacent land cover on the distribution and species richness of breeding birds within this park system. A total of 65 species were recorded throughout the study area. Avian species richness was linked to several habitat metrics, measured at both the local and landscape scale. Generally, species richness was highest at locations characterized by moderate forest cover. The proportion of canopy cover at survey sites related negatively to species richness and the density of understory vegetation showed a positive relationship with species diversity. Despite the influence of these three metrics, sensitivity analysis indicates that the density of understory vegetation is the most significant correlate to avian diversity within this suburban park system. Management actions aimed at providing habitat for the greatest diversity of breeding songbirds within the study area should allow for moderate canopy cover while retaining or improving the structural complexity of understory vegetatation.


Canopy cover Forest cover Urban birds Understory density 



We are indebted to the numerous, exceptional Cleveland Metroparks volunteers, many of whom are members of the Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society. Without their tireless efforts this project would not have been possible. We thank T. Krynak and two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped improve the quality of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & AquacultureMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  2. 2.Western Cuyahoga Audubon SocietyClevelandUSA
  3. 3.Field Research Manager, Natural Resources DivisionCleveland MetroparksFairview ParkUSA

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