Anders Pape Møller, Mario Diaz, Einar Flensted-Jensen, Tomas Grim, Juan Diego Ibáñez-Álamo, Jukka Jokimäki, Raivo Mänd, Gábor Markó, Piotr Tryjanowski (2012): High urban population density of birds reflects their timing of urbanization. Oecologia 170(3): 867-875.
Living organisms generally occur at the highest population density in the most suitable habitat. Therefore, invasion of and adaptation to novel habitats imply a gradual increase in population density, from that at or below what was found in the ancestral habitat to a density that may reach higher levels in the novel habitat following adaptation to that habitat. We tested this prediction of invasion biology by analyzing data on population density of breeding birds in their ancestral rural habitats and in matched nearby urban habitats that have been colonized recently across a continental latitudinal gradient. We estimated population density in the two types of habitats using extensive point census bird counts, and we obtained information on the year of urbanization when population density in urban habitats reached levels higher than that of the ancestral rural habitat from published records and estimates by experienced ornithologists. Both the difference in population density between urban and rural habitats and the year of urbanization were significantly repeatable when analyzing multiple populations of the same species across Europe. Population density was on average 30 % higher in urban than in rural habitats, although density reached as much as 100-fold higher in urban habitats in some species. Invasive urban bird species that colonized urban environments over a long period achieved the largest increases in population density compared to their ancestral rural habitats. This was independent of whether species were anciently or recently urbanized, providing a unique cross-validation of timing of urban invasions. These results suggest that successful invasion of urban habitats was associated with gradual adaptation to these habitats as shown by a significant increase in population density in urban habitats over time.
Adaptation, Birds, Cross-validation, Invasion, Population density