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Aim: Human development and agriculture can have transformative and homogenizing effects on natural systems, shifting the composition of ecological communities towards non-native and native species that tolerate or thrive under human-dominated conditions. These impacts cannot be fully captured by summarizing species presence, as they include dramatic changes to patterns of species abundance. However, how human land use patterns and species invasions intersect to shape patterns of abundance and dominance within ecological communities is poorly understood even in well-known taxa.
Location: Conterminous United States.
Time period: 2010–2012.
Major taxa studied: Passeriformes.
Methods: We analyse continental-scale monitoring data to study the proportional abundance of non-native and native synanthropic species within passerine bird communities. Synanthropic species are those that benefit from an association with humans. We estimate how the amount and configuration of human development and agriculture relate to the degree to which human-associated species dominate passerine communities across the continent.
Results: Human-associated species comprised the majority of detected passerine individuals across two-thirds of bird surveys. Non-native and synanthropic species responded differently to land cover and reached highest relative abundance in different portions of the continent. The proportional abundance of synanthropic birds increased rapidly with development, but was not related to the configuration of land cover. The proportion of non-native individuals was higher when intensively-used land cover was more aggregated.
Main conclusions: Even low amounts of intensively-used lands were associated with a dramatic reshaping of passerine communities, with consequences for patterns of relative abundance across the continent.