Conservation and management of California gnatcatchers (Polioptila californica californica): Focal species research and community-based conservation in urban landscapes

Amber Dawn Pairis (2005)

Urbanization and landscape modification fueled by human activities have caused fragmentation, edge effects, invasion of exotic species, and the suppression of disturbance regimes on a global scale. These impacts have weakened key processes that facilitate ecosystem function and threaten the ecological integrity of natural communities surrounded by urbanized landscapes. The overarching goal of this dissertation is to provide a human-centered approach to conservation in urbanizing areas. Most conservation planning efforts center around a specific place or particular species; however this dissertation creates conservation goals centered on places where people live and work placing humans at the center of conservation strategies. In particular, I explore ideas for maintaining the long-term ecological integrity of urban-embedded protected areas through target species research and community supported conservation initiatives. This analysis is focused on southern coastal California, U.S.A. where rapid urbanization, numerous endangered and threatened species, and an innovative landscape level conservation program have made it an ideal place to examine how to bring together conservation and urban planning. Conservation and management of the federally threatened California gnatcatcher ( Polioptila californica californica ) has been one of the primary forces driving conservation in southern California. This work provides new information on the species distribution in relation to fire ecology. In addition, I develop a conceptual framework entitled Urban Ecological Renewal for working within urban communities to initiate and maintain projects that promote conservation of adjacent protected areas.