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News Alert: People prefer living in more biodiverse areas

October 18, 2011


Northern Mockingbird (albeit one in Trinidad!), (c) Nantoniodixon, via Wiki Commons

A recent study took a unique approach to evaluate houses’ economic value andthe ecological value of habitat present in neighborhoods. The authors, working in Lubbock, Texas, gathered information on recent home sales, and then conducted bird surveys near the recently-sold properties. By recording both total bird counts and the presence/absence of  species not so commonly found in the area (such as blue jays and mockingbirds), the researchers were able to show that the presence of these less common birds was correlated with increased sale prices — in fact, for properties that already had one representative of this less-common group, the addition of just one other species boosted home values an average of $32,028.

This is another demonstration that we prefer to live in and around more biodiverse communities, getting back to that biophilic cities concept. It’s also a great tool to demonstrate the importance of urban wildlife and biodiversity to people who might otherwise be mainly concerned with the economic value of a development, and not its ecological value (such as some – but not all – city planners and developers).

The benefit of doing such “quick and dirty” bird surveys is that the researchers were able to capture important information on the ecological value of an area without long-term, in-depth studies. In the urban planning world, there often is just not enough time for such studies before decisions have to be made; this is potentially a way that planners and biologists can provide key information to policy makers. With quick, easy to use markers like this, developers and policy-types might be able to incorporate urban wildlife concerns into building projects, whereas otherwise they might not.

Finally, as the authors point out, this study also highlights the fact that not all urban greenspaces are equal. In fact, proximity to a city park did nothing to either add to bird species richness or increase home prices, probably because the parks tended to have very little vegetative variety. Private property, with varied landscaping, seemed to be much more important in both boosting property values and increasing the biodiversity present in and around the houses in question, something that park planners should consider.

Conservation Magazine has a brief write-up of the article here, and you can find the abstract (and the article itself if you have electronic access to the journal) here.

Farmer, Michael C., Wallace, Mark C., and Shiroya, Michael. 2011. Bird diversity indicates ecological value in urban home prices. Urban Ecosystems, pre-published online on 21 September 2011.

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