Bird Richness and Abundance in Response to Urban Form in a Latin American City: Valdivia, Chile as a Case Study
There is mounting evidence that urban areas influence biodiversity. Generalizations however require that multiple urban areas on multiple continents be examined. Here we evaluated the role of urban areas on avian diversity for a South American city, allowing us to examine the effects of urban features common worldwide, using the city of Valdivia, Chile as case study. We assessed the number of birds and their relative abundance in 152 grid cells of equal size (250 m2) distributed across the city. We estimated nine independent variables: land cover diversity (DC), building density (BD), impervious surface (IS),municipal green space (MG),non-municipal green space (NG), domestic garden space (DG), distance to the periphery (DP), social welfare index (SW), and vegetation diversity (RV). Impervious surface represent 41.8% of the study area, while municipal green, non-municipal green and domestic garden represent 11.6%, 23.6% and 16% of the non- man made surface. Exotic vegetation species represent 74.6% of the total species identified across the city. We found 32 bird species, all native with the exception of House Sparrow and Rock Pigeon. The most common species were House Sparrow and Chilean Swallow. Total bird richness responds negatively to IS and MG, while native bird richness responds positively to NG and negatively to BD, IS DG and, RV. Total abundance increase in areas with higher values of DC and BD, and decrease in areas of higher values of IS, SW and VR. Native bird abundance responds positively to NG and negatively to BD, IS MG, DG and RV. Our results suggest that not all the general patterns described in previous studies, conducted mainly in the USA, Europe, and Australia, can be applied to Latin American cities, having important implications for urban planning. Conservation efforts should focus on non-municipal areas, which harbor higher bird diversity, while municipal green areas need to be improved to include elements that can enhance habitat quality for birds and other species. These findings are relevant for urban planning in where both types of green space need to be considered, especially non-municipal green areas, which includes wetlands, today critically threatened by urban development.