Birds Age Quicker in City Environments

Birds Age Quicker in City Environments

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Caroline Isaksson, a biologist at Lund University, has previously studied what kind of effects Malmö’s city environment has on bird’s health. Now, Isaksson and her research group want to find out how birds are affected by different city elements, like loud noises, street lighting, and the food the birds digest.

Written by: Jacob Andersson  Translated by: Cecilia Eriksson

“We’ve showed that great tits growing up in city environments age quicker and that there are fewer hatchlings in city environments compared to the woods. We want to find out whether one single factor is affecting these birds or whether it is a combination of several smaller things that is causing their health and breeding to deteriorate,” says Caroline Isaksson, a biologist at Lund University.

Her previous research has, among other things, focused on birds’ gene expression and she has been able to show that their immune responses and stress responses has gone up. She believes that this is caused by the level of pollution in cities. She has also done research on the birds’ diet which enabled her to see that the food birds eat in city environments has a negative influence compared to the birds who live in their natural environment.

There are other researches on bird ecology in Europe, but in Sweden, Caroline Isaksson’s group of researchers are basically alone when it comes to researching the physiological effects of birds living in city environments. The city phenomenon will continue to exist and grow. With it follows several disruptive elements, like loud noises, street lighting, disruptive people, and car emissions. We also know that the stressful city environment brings about negative consequences for the animal’s health, as well as our own.

“Cars are a huge reason for the deteriorating health of the city’s people and birds. If we want to make ourselves, as well as the birds, feel better, a car-free inner city would be a desirable solution”, says Caroline Isaksson.

Helping the birds to a better health is in large about improving the life environment in cities, including our own. Listening to birdsong is good for people. For this reason, she believes it’s important that cities have green open spaces where birds can live. Hearing birds sing is helpful to us when we’re dealing with anxiety or recovering from emotional stress. Feeling better from being in nature is called “eco system services” which refers to nature’s gifts and the way they improve our quality of life. It’s especially important to kids and younger people. To kids with ADHD, research has shown that listening to birdsong and spending time in nature eases the symptoms connected to ADHD. Therefore, Caroline Isaksson wants to engage kids and youths in her research project by collecting information from school classes. Hopefully, making the kids more acquainted with the behaviour of birds and giving them a reason to be outside will make them more interested in the nature.

For those who want to help the cities’ birds, Caroline Isaksson, biologist at Lund University, suggests putting up a nesting box in your backyard or on your balcony. However, people shouldn’t feed the birds during spring or summer, because they get enough food from their natural food sources during these periods. However, you can still feed the birds during winter time.

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