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Open AccessArticle

Chicago’s Urban Cemeteries as Habitat for Cavity-Nesting Birds

by 1,* and 1,2
1
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago IL 60607, USA
2
Institute for Environmental Science and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago IL 60607, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3258; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123258
Received: 4 April 2019 / Revised: 4 June 2019 / Accepted: 10 June 2019 / Published: 13 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Urban Development)
Although not explicitly managed for conservation, urban cemeteries may provide a reserve of dead and dying trees for cavity-nesting birds. However, the ability of urban cemeteries to support these birds on current landscapes is largely unknown. We surveyed cavity-nesting birds and their habitat in 18 cemeteries in Chicago, Illinois (USA). At each location, we examined vegetation, availability of gravestones and monuments for perches, and landscape-level environmental conditions. We tested the importance of these variables for presence of individual bird species, and for overall richness of native cavity-nesting birds. We also assessed the availability and characteristics of tree cavities and their distribution among different tree species. We found that most cemeteries contained at least one dead or dying tree. Across all sampled areas, we detected 207 naturally-occurring and 77 excavated tree cavities. Tree species generally supported cavities in proportion to their abundance. We observed 12 native and two non-native cavity-nesting bird species in the cemeteries. Cavity-nesting bird species richness was best explained by landscape-level variables such as canopy cover and distance to water, but local-level variables (e.g., number of graves in a 50 m radius) influenced habitat selection for some species. Based on our results, we make suggestions for how both existing cemeteries and new “green” cemeteries can support biodiversity conservation. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban biodiversity; cavity-nesting birds; habitat; conservation; snags; woodpeckers; graveyards; urban land management; cemeteries urban biodiversity; cavity-nesting birds; habitat; conservation; snags; woodpeckers; graveyards; urban land management; cemeteries
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Smith, A.D.; Minor, E. Chicago’s Urban Cemeteries as Habitat for Cavity-Nesting Birds. Sustainability 2019, 11, 3258.

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