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Landscape effects on birds in urban woodlands: an analysis of 34 Swedish cities

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Abstract Aim 

To compare bird abundances in woodlands along gradients from the city centre to the peri-urban area. To evaluate the importance of the proportion of woodland within the city and in the peri-urban landscape to forest bird communities breeding in urban woodlands. To test whether fragmentation effects on birds were linked to the type of peri-urban matrix. Location 

A total of 34 Swedish cities with > 10,000 inhabitants in south-central Sweden. The study area covered 105,000 km2, in which 84% of the Swedish population of 9.1 million lives. Methods 

Repeated point count surveys were conducted in 2004 in a total of 474 woodlands. General linear models were used to test for possible differences in abundance along urban to peri-urban gradients, and to regress bird abundances in local urban woodlands on: (1) total woodland cover in the city, (2) total woodland cover in the peri-urban landscape, (3) the interaction between woodland cover in the city and in the peri-urban area, (4) region, and (5) human density. Results 

More than 12,000 individuals of 100 forest bird species were recorded. Of the 34 most common species detected, 13 bird species had higher abundances in urban than in peri-urban woodlands, and seven species showed the opposite trend. The bird community of urban woodlands was characterized by species associated with deciduous forests and tree nesters, whereas the bird community of peri-urban woodlands was characterized by species associated with coniferous woodland and ground nesters. Twelve species were significantly linearly associated with the proportion of urban woodland and/or the proportion of peri-urban woodland, and a further eight species were associated with the interaction between these two factors. Local breeding bird abundances of four species were significantly positively associated with the proportion of urban woodland only in farmland-dominated landscapes. Main conclusions 

Fragmentation effects on some urban birds are linked to the type of peri-urban matrix. In farmland landscapes, peri-urban woodlands may have been too scarce to act as a source of bird immigrants to fragmented urban woodlands. To maintain populations of specialized forest birds within cities in landscapes dominated by agriculture, it is of paramount importance to conserve any remaining urban woodlands.
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Keywords: Birds; Sweden; city forest; forest remnant; fragmentation; landscape; matrix; threshold; urban gradient

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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