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Habitat Fragmentation Is for the Birds

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Habitat Fragmentation Is for the Birds

By s.e. smith, Networx

s.e. smith writes about San Francisco remodeling and plumbing issues for Networx.

There are around 10,000 bird species worldwide, and an estimated 13% of them are threatened with extinction, with human pressures on their habitats being a significant contributing factor to their decline. Birds aren’t just beautiful to look at; they also play a vital role in the natural world, as part of a complex food chain that includes smaller and larger animals dependent on birds as food sources, venues for seed distribution, and more. With vanishing bird species comes growing concern among researchers about the environmental impacts of species loss.

Researchers across the world are studying bird populations to learn more about the specific threats they experience, and what they can do about it. One major area of concern is habitat fragmentation, which Rhiannon L. Crain, PhD, a Project Leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, explains occurs “when large tracts have been subdivided into smaller parcels such that the total habitat area is no longer contiguous; you can think of it like a puzzle where none of the pieces actually touch.”

She noted that you can see the effects of habitat fragmentation for yourself by looking out the window of an airplane. As you soar across farming land, you’ll see the land divided into a variety of tracts, large and small, and those get much denser as you approach suburban and urban areas. The closer you are to a major city, the fewer plants and trees, and that’s an entirely human-created problem.

As human populations settle and spread, looking for more land to develop, they break up the habitat even more. Between cutting large tracts into smaller parcels for development and sale, building up in urban areas, converting open farmland, and installing recreational facilities in formerly pristine areas, humans intrude on the natural environment. They have a tendency to break it up with different types of uses, dividing roads, and other introductions that permanently change the landscape, turning it into a new and unknown world for the animals that formerly inhabited it.

“Just because birds can fly doesn’t mean that every bird can utilize any piece of the puzzle. While some birds are generalists, and can thrive in many different habitats, many require very special environmental conditions in order to successfully feed and breed. It turns out that one of the special conditions required by many birds is large, unbroken tracts of habitat, especially birds of the grasslands and forest interior,” says Dr. Crain.

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44 comments

+ add your own
7:12PM PST on Dec 13, 2012

Now that it's winter, leave some food for the birds of your neighborhood, it helps them a lot.

3:46AM PDT on Sep 18, 2012

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

6:39PM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

sad.

11:28AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

Recently learned that cowbirds use edges to invade warblers' nests - so unbroken forest is important. Roads and even paths stress the warblers

11:17AM PDT on Sep 14, 2012

We have a small 2 1/2 acre ranch/homestead. We have tried very hard to create a good environment for the various wildlife. Rather then pulling up natural habitat for a lawn we've tried to add as much local plant life as we can. We've also protected the wildlife. I had to chase some kids with BB guns off the property just a few days ago. I confiscated their BB guns and returned them to the parent with the warning that next time I would call the police and press charges. If each one of us did something to help the animals we could have a diverse healthy population.

8:03PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

We humans should restrain our numbers and demands on nature, to allow wilderness and wildlife to survive and thrive. The conservation efforts described in this article sound nice, but we probably need changes to our economic system's drive for endless growth to achieve the conservation goals in the long term.

3:26PM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

Poor birds.

8:28AM PDT on Sep 13, 2012

Habitat fragmentation bring only bad news for the environment and biodiversity. I hope people will care more about it.

5:55PM PDT on Sep 12, 2012

Progress or retrogress? Sadly, man is the greatest enemy of wildlife and nature. Raising awareness is indeed a big step. Every small effort on the conscientious citizen helps.

2:10PM PDT on Sep 10, 2012

thanks!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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