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Phoenix is losing birds, but homeowners' plants offer habitat for avian desert-dwellers

Ecologists have long wondered about the impact of urbanization on bird biodiversity. Are cities with higher avian biodiversity showing signs of an "extinction debt" -- populations that haven't yet disappeared but are doomed to extinction -- or are other factors playing a role in biodiversity changes? Now there are new answers. The scientists looked at birds over time in relation to habitat, human responses and other factors. The findings suggest that although birds' presence and the number of species decreased over time, some desert birds can still be found in areas where homeowners provided desert landscaping -- vegetation that has adapted to the desert and is tolerant of drought. The researchers also report links between human socioeconomic factors and bird species diversity. For example, desert landscaping and desert birds occurred more frequently in neighborhoods with higher per-capita incomes.

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