EPA Science Inventory

A Framework for Enhancing Bird Habitat Value of Urban Greenspaces in the Woonasquatucket Watershed, Rhode Island, USA

Citation:

Mckinney, Rick AND M. Nightingale. A Framework for Enhancing Bird Habitat Value of Urban Greenspaces in the Woonasquatucket Watershed, Rhode Island, USA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-13/163, 2013.

Description:

Modifying greenspaces to enhance habitat value has been proposed as a means towards protecting or restoring biodiversity in urban landscapes. In this report, we provide a framework for developing low-cost, low-impact enhancements that can be incorporated during the restoration of greenspaces to enhance their wildlife habitat value. We focus on breeding bird habitat value of urban greenspaces in the Woonasquatucket watershed, a southern New England coastal plain watershed located near Providence, Rhode Island. The report is in two parts: the first is a description of a framework for enhancing bird habitat value of urban greenspaces, and the second describes an empirical study examining bird use of existing greenspaces in the Woonasquatucket watershed. The framework uses existing information on bird-plant associations to provide the elements needed to suggest specific greenspace modifications in terms of plantings that would enhance habitat value for target bird species. Our approach involves i) describing the landscape context of the Woonasquatucket watershed, and, from a bird habitat perspective, identifying advantages and constraints that the surrounding landscape imparts on urban greenspaces in the watershed; ii) identifying a regional bird pool of breeding bird species whose range currently or potentially includes the Woonasquatucket watershed; and iii) identifying a candidate plant list of native woody plant species that support birds in the regional species pool. From these elements a specific target list of bird species can be identified for a restoration of a specific greenspace, which in turn can be used to identify appropriate supporting plants to enhance habitat value. The empirical study investigated bird use of existing greenspace habitats in the Woonasquatucket watershed, and examined links between plant and bird species present at the sites. We surveyed 17 existing greenspaces for breeding birds and woody plant species (trees, shrubs, and vines) during the spring and early summer 2012. Mean bird species richness was 6.94 ± 0.56 species and mean abundance was 14.4 ± 8.31 birds, and there was a significant positive correlation between species richness and the proportion of urban land within 1 km of a site. Greater than two-thirds had multiple supporting woody plant species present at a site at which they were observed. The mean number of supporting woody plant species per regional bird pool species observed at a site was 3.87 ± 0.26 plants, versus 1.50 ± 0.11 plants for regional bird pool species not observed even though there were supporting plants present for that species. Our results suggest that greenspace restorations that include plantings of multiple supporting plants for a target bird species will have a better chance of attracting the species, and hence increasing bird habitat value. This information may help inform regional resource managers and stakeholders including urban planning departments and local resource conservation organizations involved in planning and carrying out restoration of urban greenspaces.

Purpose/Objective:

This report provides a framework for developing low-cost, low-impact enhancements that can be incorporated during the restoration of greenspaces to enhance their wildlife habitat value. The report targets urban greenspaces that either are specifically designed for or can function as best management practices for the remediation of urban stormwater runoff, and focuses on bird habitat value, building on the potential for enhanced human well-being that has been shown to accompany increased songbird diversity in urban areas. The report provides a framework that uses existing information on bird-plant associations to provide the elements needed to suggest specific greenspace modifications in terms of plantings that would enhance habitat value for target bird species. Our approach involves i) describing the landscape context of the Woonasquatucket watershed, and, from a bird habitat perspective, identifying advantages and constraints that the surrounding landscape imparts on urban greenspaces in the watershed; ii) identifying a regional bird pool of breeding bird species whose range currently or potentially includes the Woonasquatucket watershed; and iii) identifying a candidate plant list of native woody plant species that support birds in the regional species pool. From these elements a specific target list of bird species can be identified for a restoration of a specific greenspace, which in turn can be used to identify appropriate supporting plants to enhance habitat value. The report will provide input to support greenspace restoration strategies that include the enhancement of bird habitat value through low-cost, low-impact design practices. This information will be helpful to regional resource managers and stakeholders including urban planning departments, property owners, developers, engineers, consultants, contractors, municipal staff, and local resource conservation organizations involved in planning and carrying out restoration of urban greenspaces. While the target bird species and planting recommendations are specific to the Woonasquatucket watershed, the general principles underlying the development of the various project components will be useful in developing similar recommendations in other urban watersheds.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PUBLISHED REPORT/REPORT)
Completion Date: 02/24/2014
Record Last Revised: 02/24/2014
Record Created: 02/24/2014
Record Released: 02/24/2014
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 269453

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB

ATLANTIC ECOLOGY DIVISION

HABITATS EFFECT BRANCH