Urbanization alters ecosystems worldwide, but little is known about its effects in the Neotropical region. In the present research we examined the relative influence of different levels of urbanization and of some urban development measures on bird species richness, abundance and composition. We surveyed 104 observation stations at which we collected data on the relative abundance of bird species, and also data on seven environmental variables as measures of urban development and human activity. We registered 57 native bird species. Bird species richness and bird abundance increased with lower urbanization levels. Both variables were positively related to vegetation cover and native vegetation, and negatively to built-up cover, abundance of Rock Pigeon (Columa livia), pedestrian rate and car rate. A canonical correspondence analysis produced a significant model that explained 37% of the total variation in species data. This analysis segregated bird species along two important gradients: urbanization and elevation. The most urbanized areas were dominated by a few synanthropic species tolerant to human disturbance, such as Rufous-Collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis), Eared Dove (Zenaida auriculata) or Chiguanco Thrush (Turdus chiguanco). Areas with lower urbanization levels had more species typically associated with native vegetation, such as Plain-Mantled Tit-Spinetail (Leptasthenura aegitaloides) or D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant (Ochthoeca oenanthoides), among others. Elevation had a significant influence in structuring bird communities, with some species restricted to higher elevations and some to lower elevations. Although changes in elevation had an important influence, urbanization had a stronger effect on structuring bird communities. This study provides valuable information and an important baseline for future studies.
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Acknowledgements We thank John G. Blake, Pedro Blendinger, Bette Loiselle and Eliot Miller for critically reviewing previous versions of the manuscript and for their valuable comments and contributions. We also thank Charles Nilon, the Associate Editor of the journal and three anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions were essential to improve the manuscript. We also thank Flavia Montaño-Centellas for her contribution to earlier stages of this research. Mariana Villegas would like to thank Luis Fernando Villegas for his help during the field work of the study. This research was funded by the Instituto de Ecología of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz, Bolivia.
- Bird communities
- Urban ecology