Urban desert vegetation supports native bird populations

House yard with plants

New research by Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) finds that native vegetation supports native bird species better than popular grass lawns. The research published in PLOS ONE highlights work done by CAP LTER graduate students, visiting professors, and field assistants.

Hilary Gan and Eyal Shochat of ASU and Paige Warren and Susannah Lerman of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst studied the relationship between bird foraging behavior and residential yard types. The study found that desert-like yards, not exotic and moist yards, provides native birds mini-refuges and helps offset biodiversity loss in cities.

"With this study, we're starting to look at how different yards function--whether birds behave differently by yard type," says Lerman, a CAP LTER graduate student. "We're doing that by using behavioral indicators, especially foraging, as a way of assessing birds' perceptions of habitat quality between differing yard designs."

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