Date: January 22, 2019
Source: Penn State
Designating relatively small parcels of land as protected areas for wildlife with no habitat management -- which has frequently been done in urban-suburban locales around the world -- likely does not benefit declining songbird species, according to a team of researchers who studied a long-protected northeastern virgin forest plot.
They reached their conclusion after comparing bird population data collected in the 1960s in Hutcheson Memorial Forest, a unique, uncut 40-acre tract owned by Rutgers University in central New Jersey, to bird numbers found there in recent years. In the 1950s, when Rutgers received the land, a deed restriction explicitly prohibited habitat and wildlife management.
This single site is very typical of protected areas established in the last decade worldwide, researchers noted, because 68 percent of the 35,694 terrestrial protected areas added to the World Protected Area Network from 2007 to 2017 are of equal or smaller size to Hutcheson Memorial Forest.
In the study, researchers tracked bird compositional changes using a "within-season repeat sampling protocol." Using the same locations and methods employed 40 years before to collect birds, researchers documented species gains and losses through time. Using national Breeding Bird Survey data, they also contrasted songbird numbers in the protected area to the surrounding region's bird population.