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Effects of recreation areas on avian communities in coastal New South Wales’ parks


  • Patricia Densmore,

  • Kristine French

  • Trish Densmore carried out this research while an honours student under the supervision of Kris French in the Institute of Conservation Biology (School of Biological Sciences, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Email: The project forms part of a program investigating the ecology of urban bird communities.


Summary  Information on the impacts of outdoor recreation on wildlife within national parks and reserves can be useful to natural area managers. This study aimed to (i) investigate the density, diversity and species composition of avian communities in recreation areas in bushland settings in comparison to surrounding natural habitats, and (ii) determine the influence of the presence of people on avian assemblages in such recreation areas. Avian density, species richness and community composition were compared between six high-visitation bushland camping and picnic areas (recreation areas) and surrounding undisturbed habitats to examine the effect of recreation areas on avian assemblages. While total numbers of birds detected was found to be higher in recreation areas, species richness trends indicated that a greater diversity of birds was associated with the surrounding natural habitats, which were found to support a taxonomically different avian assemblage to the recreation areas. Interestingly, species previously shown to distinguish urban avian communities were commonly present and often more abundant in the recreation areas than the surrounding natural habitats. We investigated the effect of the intermittent presence of people (rather than clearing alone) and addressed changes in the diurnal distribution of species, by comparing avian assemblages at 22 picnic areas in the morning, at midday and in the afternoon between days of high and low human visitation. Observations of the availability of anthropogenic food resources and subsequent utilization by avifauna were recorded. Generally, avian assemblages appeared to be independent of the presence of people, although the provision of anthropogenic foods is thought to have the potential to adversely affect individual birds. The findings of this study suggest that even small-scale habitat clearance to create picnic areas adversely affects the avian assemblage present, with temporal changes in visitation levels of humans in these areas appearing to have had no additional influence unless through indirect impacts from anthropogenic foods.