As part of the study, scientists sampled the presence of 20 species of birds both near and far from 30 rural residences in the Adirondack Park. Calculating their occurrence at increasing distances from the residences, they determined that "human-adapted" species are 36 percent more likely to occur near the homes than in the surrounding mixed hardwood-conifer forests, and that "human-sensitive" species were 26 percent less likely. Beyond 200 meters, occupancy rates were similar to the surrounding forest.
The report appears in the current online edition of the Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning. Authors of the study are Drs. Michale Glennon and Heidi Kretser of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Rural exurban development is residential development existing outside of cities and towns, and is generally characterized by larger lot sizes (5-40 acres or more) and lower density than suburban development. Exurban residences exist within an otherwise unaltered ecosystem.
Exurban homes change the environment by bringing vehicles, noise, lights, pets, people, and food sources into the forest, as well as by physically altering and fragmenting habitat. These changes can have myriad impacts, including altered species behavior and composition, increased human wildlife conflicts, new predator-prey dynamics, and decreased biotic integrity (a measure of how pristine a wildlife community is).
"Adirondackers take great pride in their surroundings and try not to unduly disturb the natural setting in which they live," said WCS Adirondack Program Science Director Michale Glennon. "A key finding of the study is that the ecological footprint of development can be much larger than its physical footprint. We found that even a small home and lawn can change bird communities some 200 meters away, which means more than 30 acres of the surrounding landscape, depending on what types of activities are occurring on the residential property. I
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Wildlife Conservation Society