Geographic trends in range sizes explain patterns in bird responses to urbanization in Europe

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The probability of occurrence of bird species in towns/cities increases with their range sizes, and Rapoport’s rule states that range sizes increase with latitude. To test the hypothesis that the increasing number of bird species persisting in cities at higher latitudes of Europe is linked to their larger range sizes, we compiled data on bird communities of: a) 41 urban bird atlases; b) 37 city core zones from published sources; c) regions of nine grid cells of the EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds around each city. We tested whether the proportion of species from particular regional bird assemblages entering cities (i.e., proportional richness) was related to the geographical position, mean range size of regional avifaunas, proportion of vegetated areas and city habitat heterogeneity. The mean range sizes of the observed and randomly selected urban avifaunas were contrasted. The proportional richness of urban avifaunas was positively related to the geographic position and mean range size of birds in regional assemblages. The evidence favoured range sizes if considering the European range sizes or latitudinal extents, but was limited for global range sizes. Randomizations tended to show larger range sizes for the real avifaunas than in the randomly selected ones. For urban core zones, the results were less clear-cut with some evidence only in favour of the European range sizes. No role of vegetation or habitat heterogeneity was found. In conclusion, while vegetation availability or heterogeneity did not show any effects, spatial position and range sizes of birds in regional assemblages seemed to influence the proportional richness of cities and their core zones. Factors correlated with spatial position (e.g., climate) might increase the attractivity of particular cities to birds. However, the effects of range sizes indicated that urbanization possibly has more negative impacts on the avifauna in the regions occupied by less widespread species.

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