Previous work on gradients of human-altered landscapes has identified golf courses as potentially valuable areas for wildlife conservation. We assessed 6 golf courses in and around Oxford, Ohio that were surrounded by varying degrees of land-use intensity and studied bird communities within these courses to identify factors that promote diverse bird assemblages. We used a Geographic Information System (GIS) and aerial photography to estimate percentages of different land-cover types surrounding each course using buffers at scales of 100–1,000 m. We also measured on-site vegetation characteristics within 50 m of the same points used for bird sampling. We used simple linear regressions between each environmental variable and bird community statistics (abundance, species richness, Shannon diversity, and evenness) to determine which variables had the most influence on bird communities. We found that landscapes surrounding golf courses were the most important determinants of bird diversity and on-site variables were relatively unimportant. Specifically, natural land-cover buffers (forests, riparian areas, and open water) promote bird diversity and residential cover reduces diversity, especially in small buffers immediately surrounding courses. Results were similar when we limited the bird data set to Neotropical migrants or to birds with declining population trends.
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