What drives the positive correlation between human population density and bird species richness in Australia?

Gary Luck, Lisa Smallbone, Simon McDonald, Deanna Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Aim' To test six hypotheses that could explain or mediate the positive correlation between human population density (HPD) and bird species richness while controlling for biased sampling effort. These hypotheses were labelled as follows: productivity (net primary productivity, NPP); inherent heterogeneity (diversity of vegetation types); anthropogenic heterogeneity (diversity of land uses); conservation policy (proportion of conservation land); increased productivity (human-induced productivity increases); and the reduced-slope hypothesis (which predicts that humans have a negative impact on species numbers across the full range of variation in HPD).Location' Australia.Methods' All data were collected at a spatial resolution of 1° across mainland Australia. Bird species richness was from 2007 atlas data and random subsampling was used to account for biased sampling effort. HPD was from the 2006 census. All other data were from government produced geographic information system layers. The most important biotic or abiotic factors influencing patterns in both species richness and HPD were assessed using simultaneous autoregressive models and an information theoretic approach.Results' NPP appeared to be one of the main factors driving spatial congruence between bird species richness and HPD. Inherent habitat heterogeneity was weakly related to richness and HPD, although an interaction between heterogeneity and NPP indicated that the former may be an important determinant of species richness in low-productivity regions.There was little evidence that anthropogenic landscape heterogeneity or human-induced changes in productivity influenced the relationship between species richness and HPD, but conservation policy appeared to act as an important mediating factor and species richness was positively related to the proportion of conservation land only in regions of high HPD.Main conclusions' The spatial congruence between bird species richness and HPD occurs because both respond positively to productivity and, in certain circumstances, habitat heterogeneity. Our results suggest that conservation policy could mediate this relationship, but further research is required to determine the importance of conservation reserves in supporting species in regions densely populated by humans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)673-683
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Volume19
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010

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