Land-use change is a major cause of biodiversity decline, particularly as rural and natural areas are converted to urban and suburban ones. One way to mitigate these effects is to pursue conservation in urban environments. However, because disturbance in urban environments is widespread, it can be difficult to disentangle the causes of species distribution at fine scales. As a precursor to a study on the impact of an extensive rain garden network on local avian populations, this study presents results from monitoring the bird community in a residential neighborhood of Columbus, OH. Recorders were set up in both residential (front lawn) and natural remnant areas. The influence of local and landscape features such as tree canopy, road density, and remnant natural areas is tied to local species richness. A high spatial and temporal resolution is achieved by the use of automated acoustic recorders and subsequent identification of birds from songs, which requires unique preprocessing to filter out the effects of anthropogenic noise. This study provides a background for evaluating the effects of rain gardens, to be installed shortly in the study area, and raises questions about the ways populations are affected by processes operating at several spatial and temporal scales.
Preliminary results using data collected during a two-week period in early March of 2017 indicate that all study sites experienced a similar species richness. Additional species are therefore not strongly associated with remnants of natural areas in the neighborhood, which implies that habitat creation in residential areas would not improve local species richness. However, it may also be that natural areas are not significantly isolated from nearby urban areas, implying that local habitat creation could increase species richness even in remnant natural areas through the creation of additional buffer. The local species richness is much smaller during the winter period than during the spring migration, and results for spring may fall out very differently.