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Do wooded networks (Treescapes) enhance bird dispersal and movement in cities?

Project Description

Cities are characterised by highly modified and complex habitats comprising a rich mosaic of greenspaces with wooded networks (Fig. 1) supporting diverse wildlife communities. Many ecological concepts (e.g. metapopulations, island biogeography, patch-matrix models) predict that species occurrence is a function of habitat location, quality, matrix structure and the presence of linking habitats (or corridors). Studies of linear features in cities have indicated the importance of tree networks for bat species (Hale et al. 2012) and juvenile birds in their post-natal dispersal (Rosenfeld 2013), but they have also shown that urban infrastructure can reduce movement across network gaps (Hale et al. 2015). Most studies, however, have not focused on the individual dispersal dynamics of the species themselves (LaPoint et al. 2015). This project levers the development on new and lighter GPS technologies to address this shortcoming. In a world where human activity is reducing the average distances moved by animals by up to one third (Tucker et al. 2018) and urban landscapes are densifying due to development (Dallimer et al. 2011), it is evident that more focus is required on understanding: (i) the movement of organisms through the cityscape, and (ii) the nature and permeability of the network and its relationship to gaps caused by urban development that might act as barriers to movement. The principle aim of this project is to assess the ecological significance of wooded city treescapes for avian biodiversity in urban areas.

Funding Notes

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support.
• Annual stipend, set at £15,009 for 2019/20
• Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000


Dallimer, M., Tang, Z., Bibby, P. R., Brindley, P., Gaston, K. J., and Davies, Z.G. (2011) Temporal changes in greenspace in a highly urbanized region. Biology Letters, 7, 763-766.
Hale, J. D., Fairbrass, A. J., Matthews, T. J., and Sadler, J. P. (2012) Habitat composition and connectivity predicts bat presence and activity at foraging sites in a large UK conurbation. PLoS ONE, 7(3), e33300.
Hale, J. D., Davies, G., Matthews, T., Fairbrass, A., and Sadler, J. P. (2015) The ecological impact of city lighting: exploring thresholds of functional habitat connectivity for urban bats. Global Change Biology, 21, 2467–2478.
LaPoint, S., Balkenhol, N., Hale, J., Sadler, J., and van der Ree, R. (2015) Ecological connectivity research in urban areas. Functional Ecology, 29, 868-878.
Rosenfeld, E. J. (2013) Assessing the ecological significance of linkage and connectivity for avian biodiversity in urban areas. PhD thesis, University of Birmingham.
Tucker, M., Böhning-Gaese, K., Fagan, W., Fryxell, J. et al. (2018). Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movements. Science, 359(6374), 466-469.

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