Predicting land cover change and avian community responses in rapidly urbanizing environments

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We used an integrated modeling approach to simulate future land cover and predict the effects of future urban development and land cover on avian diversity in the Central Puget Sound region of Washington State, USA. We parameterized and applied a land cover change model (LCCM) that used output from a microsimulation model of urban development, UrbanSim, and biophysical site and landscape characteristics to simulate land cover 28 years into the future. We used 1991, 1995, and 1999 Landsat TM-derived land cover data and three different spatial partitions of our study area to develop six different estimations of the LCCM. We validated model simulations with 2002 land cover. We combined UrbanSim land use outputs and LCCM simulations to predict changes in avian species richness. Results indicate that landscape composition and configuration were important in explaining land cover change as well as avian species response to landscape change. Over the next 28 years, urban land cover was predicted to increase at the expense of agriculture and deciduous and mixed lowland forests. Land cover changes were predicted to reduce the total number of avian species, with losses primarily in native forest specialists and gains in common synanthropic species such as the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos). The integrated modeling framework we present has potential applications in urban and natural resource planning and management and in assessing of the effects of policies on land development, land cover, and avian biodiversity.

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