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The effect of urbanization and exposure to multiple environmental factors on life-history traits and breeding success of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) across China

Zhao, Yanyan; Pagani-Núñez, Emilio; Liu, Yu; Xing, Xiaoying; Zhang, Zhiqiang; Pan, Guangji; Song, Luting; Li, Xiang; Zhou, Zhuoya; Chen, Yanqiu; Li, Donglai; Liu, Yang; Safran, Rebecca J.


Yanyan Zhao

Yu Liu

Xiaoying Xing

Zhiqiang Zhang

Guangji Pan

Luting Song

Xiang Li

Zhuoya Zhou

Yanqiu Chen

Donglai Li

Yang Liu

Rebecca J. Safran


In addition to landscape changes, urbanization also brings about changes in environmental factors that can affect wildlife. Despite the common referral in the published literature to multiple environmental factors such as light and noise pollution, there is a gap in knowledge about their combined impact. We developed a multidimensional environmental framework to assess the effect of urbanization and multiple environmental factors (light, noise, and temperature) on life-history traits and breeding success of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) across rural to urban gradients in four locations spanning over 2500 ​km from North to South China. Over a single breeding season, we measured these environmental factors nearby nests and quantified landscape urbanization over a 1 ​km2 radius. We then analysed the relationships between these multiple environmental factors through a principal component analysis and conducted spatially explicit linear-mixed effects models to assess their effect on life-history traits and breeding success. We were particularly interested in understanding whether and how Barn Swallows were able to adapt to such environmental conditions associated with urbanization. The results show that there is significant variation in the exposure to environmental conditions experienced by Barn Swallows breeding across urbanization gradients in China. These changes and their effects are complex due to the behavioural responses ameliorating potential negative effects by selecting nesting sites that minimize exposure to environmental factors. However, significant relationships between landscape urbanization, exposure to environmental factors, and life-history traits such as laying date and clutch size were pervasive. Still, the impact on breeding success was, at least in our sample, negligible, suggesting that Barn Swallows are extremely adaptable to a wide range of environmental features.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 27, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 31, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 2, 2022
Journal Avian Research
Print ISSN 2053-7166
Publisher KeAi Communications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Article Number 100048
Keywords Fitness, Heat-island effect, Latitude, Light pollution, Noise pollution, Parental investment
Public URL


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