Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Natural Sciences
Urban development either eliminates, or severely fragments, native vegetation, and therefore alters the distribution and abundance of species that depend on it for habitat. We assessed the impact of urban development on bird communities at 121 sites in and around Perth, Western Australia. Based on data from community surveys, at least 83 % of 65 landbirds were found to be dependent, in some way, on the presence of native vegetation. For three groups of species defined by specific patterns of habitat use (bushland birds), there were sufficient data to show that species occurrences declined as the landscape changed from variegated to fragmented to relictual, according to the percentage of vegetation cover remaining. For three other groups (urban birds) species occurrences were either unrelated to the amount of vegetation cover, or increased as vegetation cover declined. In order to maximise the chances of retaining avian diversity when planning for broad-scale changes in land-use (i.e. clearing native vegetation for housing or industrial development), land planners should aim for a mosaic of variegated urban landscapes (>60 % vegetation retention) set amongst the fragmented and relictual urban landscapes (% vegetation retention) that are characteristic of most cities and their suburbs. Management actions for conserving remnant biota within fragmented urban landscapes should concentrate on maintaining the integrity and quality of remnant native vegetation, and aim at building awareness among the general public of the conservation value of remnant native vegetation.