Wetlands play an important role in the feeding, breeding, and lives of birds. However, available habitats for bird species are changing due to intensifying human activity, especially in the context of China’s mass urbanization. Urban sprawl has taken over the wetlands along the lakes in the past decades, which places tremendous pressure on wetland ecosystems and, therefore, on bird communities. However, the ways urban land cover pattern along the urban-rural gradient affects bird communities is still unclear. To investigate the influence of land cover pattern on the α and β diversity of birds in the urban-rural gradient we chose 31 sites distributed within the wetlands around the Dianchi Lake in Yunnan, China. We calculated the species richness to indicate α diversity and used the Morisita–Horn index to indicate β diversity. Meanwhile, we assessed the land cover pattern of each site by measuring the proportion of emergent plants, floating plants, submerged plants, ponds, forests, lawns, roads, agricultural lands and built lands in a quadrat of 1 square kilometer. Simple linear regressions, model selection, and an averaging approach based on corrected Akaike information criterion (AICc) were used to test the effects of land cover pattern on bird diversity. Using one-way ANOVA and Tukey’s HSD (honestly significant difference) test, we compared the difference between α and β diversity, respectively, along the urban-rural gradient. Based on our analyses, urban and suburban wetland birds were significantly homogeneous. The community structure in rural wetlands, however, was significantly different from that of the suburban and urban areas. According to our research, the land cover patterns that influenced bird species richness were the built lands acreage, submerged plants acreage, ponds acreage, and the edge density of emergent plants. Meanwhile, of these variables, the built lands acreage, ponds acreage and edge density of emergent plants were significantly different in urban, suburban, and rural wetlands. Therefore, to maintain high biodiversity in wetlands affected by urbanization, we must pay more attention to the land cover patterns.
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