Residential yard management and landscape cover affect urban bird community diversity across the continental USA

Susannah B. Lerman, Desirée L. Narango, Meghan L. Avolio, Anika R. Bratt, Jesse M. Engebretson, Peter M. Groffman, Sharon J. Hall, James B. Heffernan, Sarah E. Hobbie, Kelli L. Larson, Dexter H. Locke, Christopher Neill, Kristen C. Nelson, Josep Padullés Cubino, Tara L.E. Trammell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Urbanization has a homogenizing effect on biodiversity and leads to communities with fewer native species and lower conservation value. However, few studies have explored whether or how land management by urban residents can ameliorate the deleterious effects of this homogenization on species composition. We tested the effects of local (land management) and neighborhood-scale (impervious surface and tree canopy cover) features on breeding bird diversity in six US metropolitan areas that differ in regional species pools and climate. We used a Bayesian multiregion community model to assess differences in species richness, functional guild richness, community turnover, population vulnerability, and public interest in each bird community in six land management types: two natural area park types (separate and adjacent to residential areas), two yard types with conservation features (wildlife-certified and water conservation) and two lawn-dominated yard types (high- and low-fertilizer application), and surrounding neighborhood-scale features. Species richness was higher in yards compared with parks; however, parks supported communities with high conservation scores while yards supported species of high public interest. Bird communities in all land management types were composed of primarily native species. Within yard types, species richness was strongly and positively associated with neighborhood-scale tree canopy cover and negatively associated with impervious surface. At a continental scale, community turnover between cities was lowest in yards and highest in parks. Within cities, however, turnover was lowest in high-fertilizer yards and highest in wildlife-certified yards and parks. Our results demonstrate that, across regions, preserving natural areas, minimizing impervious surfaces and increasing tree canopy are essential strategies to conserve regionally important species. However, yards, especially those managed for wildlife support diverse, heterogeneous bird communities with high public interest and potential to support species of conservation concern. Management approaches that include the preservation of protected parks, encourage wildlife-friendly yards and acknowledge how public interest in local birds can advance successful conservation in American residential landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02455
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • beta-diversity
  • biodiversity conservation
  • community ecology
  • habitat
  • occupancy
  • residential landscapes
  • urban homogenization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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