Date of Award

Spring 5-10-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. Christine Brodsky

Second Advisor

Dr. Hermann Nonnenmacher

Third Advisor

Dr. Alisha Mason


Ecological research indicates that global species richness is declining due to a combination of urbanization and human population growth that fragments and simplifies the landscape. As these rates continue to grow, the value of urban greenspaces increases. If managed properly, residential greenspaces can help to maintain species richness and mitigate landscape simplifications. However, residential greenspaces are often the result of a number of individual management decisions that are vastly different from historically native vegetation. Additionally, management decisions are closely related to a number of sociodemographic factors such as age, education, home ownership, and income that influences management behaviors. I surveyed residential birds, butterflies, and vegetation to determine local community characteristics. I also conducted landowner surveys to assess the links tied to management decisions and to determine which garden variables were the most related to species richness. I found that the species richness of both birds and butterflies responded positively to habitat features such as complex vegetation, water availability, and native vegetation. Social variables that explained species richness included ownership status of the residents, supplemental feeding practices, and wildlife-friendly gardening. By demonstrating a relationship between specific management practices in residential properties and increases in species richness, this study highlights that even small-scale garden features can mitigate habitat fragmentation and homogenization that stems from population and urbanization growth. By understanding the relationships that drive homeowner management and preferences that ultimately influence bird and butterfly communities, we can educate both homeowners and future city planners on how much residents can impact global biodiversity.

Included in

Biology Commons



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