EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION ON ARTHROPOD COMMUNITIES IN CAROLINA WREN (THRYOTHORUS LUDOVICIANUS) NESTS: A COMPARATIVE STUDY BETWEEN URBAN & RURAL HABITATS IN WALKER COUNTY, TEXAS
Byrd, Faith N.
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As urban sprawl increases, the need for better understanding of anthropogenic effects on songbirds also increases. Humans continue to alter natural environments by introducing non-native plant species and disturbing ecosystems with houses and maintained yards. These alterations have been shown in past studies to not only alter animal behaviors, but to affect what animals are present in a given space. This is particularly concerning given recent studies showing a dramatic decline in arthropod populations globally. I evaluated the relationship between plant communities, human dwellings and arthropod communities found in the nests of a cavity-nesting songbird species, the Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) to establish if species richness of arthropods in microhabitats has been affected by human influence. Avian nests are important habitats for arthropod species that live and reproduce in nesting material. Some of these arthropod species impact vertebrate fitness, and many play an important role in nutrient recycling by breaking down decaying materials. The results of this study suggest that urbanization shifts community structure of nest-dwelling arthropods. Species richness was greater in rural habitats and when nests were located near native plants, though species populations between habitats were not significantly different. Future studies should consider more factors of urbanization, as well as the impact of urban densification on other microhabitats.