Study Investigates Effects Of Urbanization On Bird Communities

(Representative image) A new study has found that urbanisation homogenises farmland bird communities, filtering out species with certain functional traits, such as insect-eating birds, which are important for pest control. (Bruno Coimbra/Unsplash)

GÖTTINGEN, Germany — Urbanization homogenized farmland bird communities, filtering out species with certain functional traits, said a new study.

“Urbanization is a major driver of land-use change and biodiversity decline,” states an abstract of the study.

“While most of the ongoing and future urbanization hotspots are located in the Global South, the impact of urban expansion on agricultural biodiversity and associated functions and services in these regions has widely been neglected.”

Published in the journal “Global Change Biology,” the findings reveal that urbanization is one of the most severe forms of land-use change. Its negative consequences on biodiversity have been studied extensively in temperate countries such as Germany.

However, less research has been conducted in tropical regions from the Global South, where most of the ongoing and future urbanization hotspots are located, and little is known about its effects on agricultural biodiversity and associated ecosystems.

A research team from the University of Gottingen and the University of Hohenheim, in collaboration with the University of Agricultural Sciences of Bangalore in India, investigated the effects of urbanization on farmland bird communities in and around Bangalore a city of over 10 million inhabitants in South India.

They found that urbanization homogenized farmland bird communities, filtering out species with certain functional traits, such as insect-eating birds, essential for pest control.

A local ornithological expert conducted regular bird surveys over one year and recorded 126 bird species.

Using remote sensing techniques, satellite pictures were processed to produce a map of different land-uses. Urbanization intensity was measured based on the proportion of sealed surfaces and buildings in the landscape.

The researchers analyzed how farmland bird communities changed along a gradient of urbanization using newly developed statistical analyses.

“We found that urban bird communities were impoverished subsets of rural communities, both in terms of species composition and the ecological functions they provide,” said first author Gabriel Marcacci, a student in the Functional Agrobiodiversity group at the University of Gottingen.

“Birds perform important roles in the environment, for instance controlling pests by eating insects, scavenging and removing carrion, or eating fruits and dispersing the seeds. But only bird species that are well adapted to urban environments such as pigeons or crows can thrive,” said Marcacci.

“The homogenization— resulting from losing diversity through the exclusion of certain groups— of farmland bird communities may disrupt important ecosystem functions and services in urban agroecosystems such as pest removal by insect-eating birds,” said Professor Catrin Westphal, head of the Functional Agrobiodiversity group.

Urban communities were found to be more sensitive to species loss, endangering ecosystem resilience.

“Our study underscores urbanization as a serious threat to biological communities and ecosystem functioning that may affect food production systems,” said Professor Ingo Grass, head of the Department of Ecology of Tropical Agricultural Systems at the University of Hohenheim.

“This concern is especially relevant for countries from the Global South where urban agriculture and ecosystem services play an increasingly important role for food security,” said Professor Teja Tscharntke.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra



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