Neighborhood socioeconomic status affects diversity of birds in parks, study finds

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 9, 2002 -- Birds of a feather not only flock together, but they flock to richer neighborhoods.

People living in higher socioeconomic areas are likely to see a wider diversity of bird species in their parks, according to Paige S. Warren, who holds a joint appointment as a research scientist in the Department of Biology at Virginia Tech and the Center for Environmental Studies at Arizona State University. Warren is working on a study that eventually will provide information on how humans interact with and affect their environment.

Warren and two colleagues at Arizona State, Ann P. Kinzig of the Biology Department and Center for Environmental Studies and Chris Martin of the Department of Plant Biology, are investigating the relationship between socioeconomic level and the diversity of bird populations in urban neighborhood parks. Their work is part of the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research Project. Although there have been few studies of this sort, "it is well known that humans actively construct biological communities in their gardens, yards, and neighborhood parks," the researchers said in a summary of their study presented at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

The scientists studied 15 small Phoenix-area community parks whose surrounding communities had varying socioeconomic groups, from lower to upper income. They chose parks because they had similar characteristics but different surrounding neighborhoods. "We found that neighborhood socioeconomic status is the strongest correlate of bird diversity in these parks, even when other features of the park are accounted for," Warren said. "In other words, higher bird diversity occurs in upper-socioeconomic areas."

Conversely, they found that higher bird populations--usually of three major imported species (pigeons, European starlings, and English sparrows)--existed in middle or lower socioeconomic areas in cities. Alth

Contact: Paige Warren
Virginia Tech

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