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Goldifinch and the Three Scales: Investigating Songbird Habitats Near Rivers
This article is from Issue Olympic Winter Games - Vol. 2 No. 2.
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Some scientists think that wildlife is mostly dependent on the immediate natural area in which it lives. The scientist in this study was interested in exploring this idea, because she thought that native songbirds might also be affected by the larger environment surrounding their immediate forest home.
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Scientists who study ecology are called ecologists. Ecologists study the natural environment at different habitat scales, often focusing on studying a large area so that they can better understand how plants, animals, and the land interact. Scientists may also focus on a small scale, as when they study the habitat in the immediate natural area where an animal lives. In this study, the scientist was interested in comparing different sizes, or scales, of songbird habitat, so that she could better understand which kinds of natural places songbirds prefer to live.
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Species diversity is a particular kind of biodiversity. Species diversity is a measure of how many different kinds of species live in an area and the numbers of each species. For a natural area to be healthy, it should have many different forms of life. It is best when those species are native to the area. When nonnative species move into an area, they sometimes compete with the native species for food and homes. An example of a nonnative bird is the brown-headed cowbird. The scientist in this study was interested in the diversity of native songbird species living in riparian forests. Riparian forests are forests located on or near the banks of waterways. Dr. Saab wondered whether nonnative bird species were moving into the forests. If they were moving into the forests, they might be pushing native songbirds out. This would reduce the songbird species diversity. She thought that agriculture and home building on the land surrounding the forests might be creating habitats more favorable for nonnative bird species.
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