With urban land expected to triple between 2000-2030, understanding the ecology of cities is sorely needed to safeguard ecosystem services, biodiversity, and our own well-being. One common target of urban conservation is birds, owing to both their charisma and sensitivity to environmental change. Though urban development is a real threat to birds across all ecosystem types, a strategic network of urban habitats also might provide refuge to certain species amid rapid urbanization. However, relatively little is known about the ecological processes that influence bird communities in urbanizing landscapes. From 2001-2014, my students and I studied birds within forested parks across a rural-to-urban landscape gradient in central Ohio. Our research aimed, in part, to understand the ecological consequences of three defining attributes of many urban systems – invasive plants, abundant predators, and a rich assortment of human-provided foods. In this talk, I will share how human inputs altered species interactions in ways that affected how birds used plants for nesting, changed the nature of predator-prey relationships, and resulted in evolutionary traps.
Garvin Professor of Ornithology and Director of Conservation Science
Robert F. Schumann Faculty Fellow
Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Department of Natural Resources
Faculty Fellow, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY