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Keywords:

  • birds, conservation, exotic species, fragmentation, landscape, natural disturbance, predation, urban ecosystems, restoration

Abstract

Humans fragment landscapes to the detriment of wildlife. We review why fragmentation is detrimental to wildlife (especially birds), review the effects of urbanization on birds inhabiting nearby native habitats, suggest how restoration ecologists can minimize these effects, and discuss future research needs. We emphasize the importance of individual fitness to determining community composition. This means that reproduction, survivorship, and dispersal (not simply community composition) must be maintained, restored, and monitored. We suggest that the severity of the effects of fragmentation are determined by (1) the natural disturbance regime, (2) the similarity of the anthropogenic matrix to the natural matrix, and (3) the persistence of the anthropogenic change. As a result, urbanization is likely to produce greater effects of fragmentation than either agriculture or timber harvest. Restoration ecologists, land managers, and urban planners can help maintain native birds in fragmented landscapes by a combination of short- and long-term actions designed to restore ecological function (not just shape and structure) to fragments, including: (1) maintaining native vegetation, deadwood, and other nesting structures in the fragment, (2) managing the landscape surrounding the fragment (matrix), not just the fragment, (3) making the matrix more like the native habitat fragments, (4) increasing the foliage height diversity within fragments, (5) designing buffers that reduce penetration of undesirable agents from the matrix, (6) recognizing that human activity is not compatible with interior conditions, (7) actively managing mammal populations in fragments, (8) discouraging open lawn on public and private property, (9) providing statutory recognition of the value of complexes of small wetlands, (10) integrating urban parks into the native habitat system, (11) anticipating urbanization and seeking creative ways to increase native habitat and manage it collectively, (12) reducing the growing effects of urbanization on once remote natural areas, (13) realizing that fragments may be best suited to conserve only a few species, (14) developing monitoring programs that measure fitness, and (15) developing a new educational paradigm.