Royal Society Publishing

Birds and people in Europe

Kevin J. Gaston, Karl L. Evans


At a regional scale, species richness and human population size are frequently positively correlated across space. Such patterns may arise because both species richness and human density increase with energy availability. If the species–energy relationship is generated through the ‘more individual’ hypothesis, then the prediction is that areas with high human densities will also support greater numbers of individuals from other taxa. We use the unique data available for the breeding birds in Europe to test this prediction. Overall regional densities of bird species are higher in areas with more people; species of conservation concern exhibit the same pattern. Avian density also increases faster with human density than does avian biomass, indicating that areas with a higher human density have a higher proportion of small–bodied individuals. The analyses also underline the low numbers of breeding birds in Europe relative to humans, with a median of just three individual birds per person, and 4 g of bird for every kilogram of human.

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