Yards with plants that mimic native vegetation offer birds "mini-refuges" and help to offset losses of biodiversity in cities, according to results of a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE. "Native" yards support birds better than those with traditional grass lawns and non-native plantings. Researchers conducted the study through the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research site, one of 26 such sites around the globe in ecosystems from coral reefs to deserts, from forests to grasslands.
"To a desert bird, what's green is not necessarily good," says Doug Levey, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology. "Arizona birds don't view lush urban landscapes as desert oases. The foraging behavior of birds in greener yards suggests that there's less food for them there than in yards with more natural vegetation." The research, led by scientists Susannah Lerman and Paige Warren of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and Hilary Gan and Eyal Shochat of Arizona State University, looked at residential landscape types and native bird communities in Phoenix, Ariz.