Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 979–990 | Cite as

Using a bird community index to evaluate national parks in the urbanized national capital region

  • Sarah E. GoodwinEmail author
  • W. Gregory Shriver


Land managers and conservationists face two challenges in protecting land: first balancing human needs against conservation goals, and second demonstrating protected areas are meeting those goals. In this paper, we address the second challenge, using the National Parks of the highly urbanized mid-Atlantic as an example. We detail a comprehensive measure of overall ecosystem integrity, the bird community index, and demonstrate how it relates to the underlying habitat structure. We use community bird data collected from point counts to generate a single, comprehensive metric that we show is significantly correlated to habitat features, making it an effective tool for evaluating ecological integrity. Next, using the metric, we compare bird communities within and outside of protected status, and find that National Parks maintain higher integrity bird communities. This result provides evidence that even smaller parks in highly urbanized areas afford a conservation benefit. More broadly, we find that this rapid and cost effective assessment tool, the bird community index, shows great promise in helping land managers evaluate protected areas.


Birds Ecological integrity National Parks Protected Community 



We thank Pat Campbell of the National Park Service Inventory and Monitoring Program for support and providing access to the avian monitoring data. Geoff Sanders (National Park Service I&M, National Capital Region) provided data management and assisted in QA/QC of the avian data. The staff at the Breeding Bird Survey provided data for off park sites which was greatly appreciated. We thank the numerous volunteers of the Breeding Bird Survey and field assistants of the National Park Service for undertaking these surveys. Thanks also to Tim O’Connell and the Podos lab for providing feedback on an earlier draft of this manuscript. We also thank the staff at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Monocacy National Battlefield, National Capital Parks-East, Prince William Forest Park, Rock Creek Park, and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts for logistical support. This work was funded by the National Park Service’s National Capital Region Inventory and Monitoring Network.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Entomology and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of DelawareNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

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