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Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1007–1017 | Cite as

Bird responses to housing development in intensively managed agricultural landscapes

  • Simon GillingsEmail author
Article

Abstract

Housing a growing human population is a global issue and designing environmentally friendly developments requires identifying the species likely to be negatively impacted and finding mitigation solutions. Existing studies that consider fragmentation of natural habitats have limited application in countries such as Britain where a prime target for development is agricultural land where decades of intensive management have already diminished biodiversity. Here I used citizen science data on the abundance of 146 breeding and wintering birds to develop models linking abundance to human population density and habitat features. I used these as a proxy for the urbanisation process, finding that impacts of urbanisation were species-specific and context dependent. Low-density developments benefited a high proportion of birds, with wetland birds benefitting most and farmland birds least, but as human densities increased further, up to 75% of species were negatively impacted. Almost half of species currently occurring at 14 flagship residential development sites were predicted to decline based on projected human population density increases, with a third predicted to increase. Presence of wetlands, canopy cover and patches of trees all benefited certain species but efforts to identify more detailed habitat associations were hampered by collinearity among variables. I conclude that even in heavily degraded agricultural landscapes, a high proportion of species will be negatively impacted by residential development and that some will require spared land to persist in the wider landscape. As no single habitat benefited the entire bird community, urban planners wishing to design bird-friendly developments will need to make difficult decisions over which aspects of the bird community to prioritise.

Keywords

Residential development Breeding birds Wintering birds Landscape planning Farmland 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I thank the many volunteers who provided the Atlas data on which this study is based. Thanks to Chris Lloyd for supplying the human population data from the Liverpool PopChange project. Alison Johnston and Philipp Boersch-Supan provided statistical advice. Daria Dadam, Jennifer Border, Kate Plummer, Gavin Siriwardena and two anonymous reviewer provided comments on earlier drafts. This work was funded by a grant from the John Ellerman Foundation and through partnerships with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and with Natural England.

Supplementary material

11252_2019_895_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.3 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2323 kb)

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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.British Trust for OrnithologyNorfolkUK

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