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Paper – The importance of street trees to urban avifauna

The importance of street trees to urban avifauna, Eric M. Wood and Sevan Esaian 11 June 2020 Ecological Applications 2020 e02149: “Street trees are public resources planted in a municipality’s right‐of‐way and are a considerable component of urban forests throughout the world. Street trees provide numerous benefits to people. However, many metropolitan areas have a poor understanding of the value of street trees to wildlife, which presents a gap in our knowledge of conservation in urban ecosystems. Greater Los Angeles (LA) is a global city harboring one of the most diverse and extensive urban forests on the planet. The vast majority of the urban forest is nonnative in geographic origin, planted throughout LA following the influx of irrigated water in the early 1900s. In addition to its extensive urban forest, LA is home to a high diversity of birds, which utilize the metropolis throughout the annual cycle. The cover of the urban forest, and likely street trees, varies dramatically across a socioeconomic gradient. However, it is unknown how this variability influences avian communities. To understand the importance of street trees to urban avifauna, we documented foraging behavior by birds on native and nonnative street trees across a socioeconomic gradient throughout LA. Affluent communities harbored a unique composition of street trees, including denser and larger trees than lower‐income communities, which in turn, attracted nearly five times the density of feeding birds. Foraging birds strongly preferred two native street‐tree species as feeding substrates, the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia ) and the California sycamore (Platanus racemosa ), and a handful of nonnative tree species, including the Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia ), the carrotwood (Cupaniopsis anacardioides ), and the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana ), in greater proportion than their availability throughout the cityscape (two to three times their availability). Eighty‐three percent of street‐tree species (n  = 108, total) were used in a lower proportion than their availability by feeding birds, and nearly all were nonnative in origin. Our findings highlight the positive influence of street trees on urban avifauna. In particular, our results suggest that improved street‐tree management in lower‐income communities would likely positively benefit birds. Further, our study provides support for the high value of native street‐tree species and select nonnative species as important habitat for feeding birds.”

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