Does demolition improve biodiversity? Linking urban green space and socioeconomic characteristics to avian richness in a shrinking city

Cassondra M. Walker, K. Colton Flynn, Gustavo A. Ovando-Montejo, Emily A. Ellis, Amy E. Frazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic change, specifically urbanization, has lasting impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Past work has linked green space variables and socioeconomic characteristics with biodiversity in urban areas. Shrinking cities present an interesting case for studying biodiversity because many of these places have implemented demolition policies to remove vacant buildings from the landscape, which returns previously urbanized land back into a “natural” state. The objective of this study is to investigate the multifaceted relationship among urban green space, socioeconomic characteristics, demolition activities, and avian species richness in the shrinking city of Buffalo, NY. We first establish a baseline understanding of how social and ecological factors are related to avian species richness through generalized linear models (GLM) and then incorporate a variable characterizing demolition to understand how the process of demolition may be impacting species richness relative to other factors. Second, since our analysis relies on “citizen science” data from eBird, we aim to better understand the factors driving eBird participation in Buffalo through zero-inflated negative binomial (ZINB) regression models to test how social and ecological characteristics and demolition affect checklists submission across the city. Our findings suggested that demolition activities do not increase species richness in Buffalo, indicating these sites may not be returning to a natural state that is usable by birds. We also found that areas that have undergone considerable demolition may be a potential deterrent to eBird participation, and eBird users may create bias by sampling areas with greater green space connectivity, and thus higher richness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1191-1202
Number of pages12
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Biodiversity
  • Green space
  • Perforation
  • Urban decline
  • Urban species richness
  • Zero-inflated models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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