Friday, January 1, 2016

First paper read of 2015: birds and urbanization from 2007

Working on a paper from my work in western Georgia (USA) and catching up on the literature. Been feeling a bit scattered and not sure where my career is going (urbanization?, grasslands?, tropical?, isotopes?, DNA barcoding?, acorns?, blue jays?). 

I could make a career of catching up and I should. I owe it to the people that have invested in me. 

Anyways, just finished Valiela, I. and P. Martinetto, 2007. Changes in Bird Abundance in Eastern North America: Urban Sprawl and Global Footprint? BioScience 57, 360-370. 

I typically read and underline important parts then type in those parts in Endnote. Horribly inefficient. I know some people highlight the pdf. I get it back when I do a search and print out the Endnote hits with annotations. That way I can skim through the annotations and get the gist of the paper that I think is important rather than reading the abstract. 

Here's some of the important findings:

1. Overall, birds are declining in North America but probably not who you expected (long-distance migrants of the forest)

2. Large declines in open habitat birds (their categorization is a little wonky) that are residents or short-distance migrants

3. Wetland birds decline as well

4. Most forest birds, especially residents, are increasing

5. Edge birds (including the Starling?) are not increasing despite what is an increase in the urban-wildland interface 


  1. Interesting paper - in my mind none of the results are surprising except #5. I was unconvinced by their explanation for #2: "The expansion of urban sprawl at the expense of agricultural area, for example, may be associated with
    loss of birds of open habitats." (367) They rightly note that the increase in forest birds is likely a result of afforestation. Where they do not go is connecting the decline in "open habitat" birds with the massive acreage of eastern farmland which has been (mostly) reclaimed by forests - in amounts far greater than than claimed by "urban sprawl".

  2. I agree. I keep hoping that somebody produces (or maybe just that I find it), a pixel-based analysis of land conversion that is a matrix of "from land use x to land use y" so we can see what are the land uses that are most likely turning into urban areas. My guess to that, using classification high intensity urban comes from low intensity urban and low intensity urban comes from transitional areas and those from forested. Also, would be interesting to see how permanent urbanization is.

  3. There is a fair bit of literature out there on the reversal of urbanization, with Detroit now serving as an excellent (albeit sad) laboratory. To see it first hand, you could check out Centralia, which is a short distance from 81. (Although it should be noted that most buildings there were demolished rather than left to decay).

  4. There are a few places in the WB that are converting as well but on a larger landscape-scale I wonder what the patterns are... do cities die from the inside out? Are they eaten away at the margins? What is the contagion of reversal? Interesting stuff. And what does it mean for wildlife?

  5. The snappy answers to your first two questions are sometimes and sometimes; the answer to your third question is highly contested and frequently reflective of ideology. As for wildlife, the results tend to be grand - even in locations like Pripyat!

  6. Cool paper. I like how they blame the drop in wild boar in 1993 on wolves. I, however, suspect there are a bunch of pig roasts in the area.