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Peeking into the past to plan the future: Assessing bird species richness in a neotropical city

Escobar-Ibáñez, Juan F., MacGregor-Fors, Ian
Urban ecosystems 2016 v.19 no.2 pp. 657-667
birds, confidence interval, ecosystems, granivores, insectivores, prediction, species diversity, surveys, tropics, urban areas, urbanization, Mexico
Urbanization has been considered as a major threat to biodiversity, making its ecology of increasing interest. Many urban ecology studies have been developed in a short time-scale, measuring real-time patterns. However, long-term studies are imperative to understand the responses of some species to the urbanization process. In this study, we aimed to assess the information provided by a recent one-year citywide bird survey when compared to a published ‘historical’ bird list of a neotropical city (Xalapa, Mexico) that compiles information of the past three decades, mainly from urban greenspaces. Specifically, we contrasted species richness values and assessed differences in species composition between both lists. We recorded 51 species in the one-year citywide survey, representing ~15 % of those reported in the historical list. Nonetheless, the upper-bound confidence interval of the citywide survey richness prediction represented ~66 %. Most of the species recorded in the one-year citywide survey are insectivores and granivores, a pattern that agrees with previous findings that underline the importance of insectivores as part of urban bird communities in the Neotropics. Although we used robust methods to compare our one-year citywide bird list and the historical list for the city of Xalapa, we acknowledge the limitations of comparing them. However, our results shed some light on the kind and type of information that one-year citywide surveys can provide and the importance of long-term studies for comprehending the processes involved in biodiversity changes within urban areas over time. Undoubtedly, establishing long-term citywide surveys sampling birds and other biodiversity groups will allow us to better understand the response of biodiversity to urbanization over time.