Influence of urbanization on the avian species-area relationship: insights from the breeding birds of Rome
AbstractThe species-area relationship (SAR) is one of the most investigated patterns in ecology and conservation biology, yet there is no study testing how different levels of urbanization influence its shape. Here we tested the impact of urbanization on avian SARs along a rural-urban gradient using the breeding birds of Rome (Central Italy). We divided the city into 360 cells of 1 km2. Each cell was classified as rural, suburban or urban using the proportion of impervious surface calculated
... m remote sensing data. For each of these three landscape categories, we constructed a SAR as a species accumulation curve (Gleason function) using bird species distribution data. SAR intercepts (i.e. the number of species per unit area) decreased from rural to urban areas, which indicates that urbanization depressed the number of species, reflecting the loss of specialized species strictly associated with natural habitats. The slope was highest for the rural curve, indicating that natural landscapes have the highest turnover due to their higher habitat heterogeneity. A higher slope for the urban cells, compared to the suburban ones, can be explained by the presence of green spaces embedded in the built-up matrix which host different avian communities. Previous studies that compared whole cities with natural areas failed to find differences in the respective SARs. Our study, which constructed SARs for different levels of urbanization, indicated significant changes in the SARs along the rural-urban gradient. Further analyses in other cities and taxa will be useful to test how general are our findings.