Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 893–906 | Cite as

Disentangling an avian assemblages’ evolutionary and functional history in a Chihuahuan desert city

  • Israel Moreno-ContrerasEmail author
  • Héctor Gómez de Silva
  • Violeta Andrade-González
  • Cuauhcihuatl Vital-García
  • Marco F. Ortiz-Ramírez


Urban green spaces have been shown to be important hotspots of biodiversity in cities of temperate and humid/semihumid tropical ecoregions. Nonetheless, whether this pattern applies to urban ecosystems of desert environments has been rarely studied. Temperature, precipitation, vegetation complexity, human density, and presence of invasive species could act as urban filters limiting the incidence of desert-adapted species into cities. Such effects could be reshaping biotic communities, favoring habitat generalist species in human-dominated environments. In this study, we examined the phylogenetic and functional structure of avian assemblages in a Chihuahuan desert city and its surroundings to infer the processes underlying community assembly. We used phylogenetic comparative methods to test the hypothesis whether there is an underlying pattern determining which desert-adapted species penetrate or tolerate a novel urban ecosystem. We also performed a regression approach to determine which environmental and anthropogenic variables may be associated with these metrics. We found that urban green spaces present more evolutionary and functional diversity (based on the proportion of total tree branch length) than agricultural fields and desert scrub, although not statistically significant. On the other hand, based on the mean branch length distance among sample taxa, we observed clustered communities suggesting environmental filtering. Most continuous functional traits presented a low and significant phylogenetic signal, but nearly all binary traits were conserved across phylogeny. Phylogenetic predisposition to be a habitat generalist is present in the surveyed avian assemblages. Our regression analysis indicates that invasive bird species richness was negatively correlated with net relatedness index (NRI) and functional net relatedness index (FNRI), while functional diversity metrics were influenced by temperature and precipitation.


Desert Functional diversity Mexico Niche conservationism Phylogenetic diversity Urban ecology 



IMC received a Master scholarship grant provided by CONACyT and Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) (grant number: 451119). We thank to Miguel Angel Viveros for providing access to Club Campestre. Thanks to Macaulay library (Cornell University) and for providing us their recordings for this study. Thanks to editor and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the early version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Posgrado en Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCiudad de MéxicoMéxico
  2. 2.Museo de Zoología, Departamento de Biología Evolutiva, Facultad de CienciasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCiudad de MéxicoMéxico
  3. 3.Ciudad de MéxicoMéxico
  4. 4.Departamento de Ciencias Veterinarias, Instituto de Ciencias BiomédicasUniversidad Autónoma de Ciudad JuárezCiudad JuárezMéxico

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