||Framework for Enhancing Bird Habitat Value of Urban Greenspaces in the Woonasquatucket Watershed, Rhode Island USA.
R. A. McKinney ;
M. E. Nightingale
||National Health and Environmental Effects Research Lab., Narragansett, RI. Atlantic Ecology Div.; Rhode Island Univ., Kingston. Dept. of Natural Resources Science.
Urban areas ;
Wildlife management ;
Biological recovery ;
Environmental protection ;
Rhode Island ;
Species diversity ;
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||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 lowcost, 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 (1) 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; (2) identifying a regional bird pool of breeding bird species whose range currently or potentially includes the Woonasquatucket watershed; and (3) 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 across all sites was 6.94 - 0.56 species, and mean abundance was 14.4 - 8.31 birds. There was a significant positive correlation between bird species richness and the proportion of urban land within 1 km of a site; however, the mean number of human-intolerant species observed was 0.59 - 0.72 species, suggesting that the increase was a result of an increase in human-tolerant species. Greater than two-thirds of observed bird species 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.
||Sponsored by Rhode Island Univ., Kingston. Dept. of Natural Resources Science.
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