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Urbanization

Human population growth is markedly diverse in the Appalachians; while many rural counties have negative growth trends, some urban areas have seen a 100% increase in their populations over the past 20 years.  The sprawl of urban and rural development associated with increasing human populations is a growing threat in the Appalachians.  There is a growing body of evidence showing a negative effect on bird and other wildlife populations through the loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat.  Urbanization alters ecological structure and function and leads to a homogenization of biotic communities.  Human settlement patterns create complex landscape mosaics that typically fall on a gradient from natural areas through exurban and suburban to urban.  The amount and degree of habitat fragmentation that results from development varies depending on the interspersion of housing or other infrastructure and natural areas within a landscape.  The interface of these increasingly urban areas with the adjacent forest is often referred to as the wildland-urban interface.  Studies have shown that the likelihood of establishment and spread of invasive plant and animal species increases along these interfaces.  Human-wildlife interactions also increase, often in undesirable ways such as increased wildlife-automobile collisions and more nuisance encounters (e.g. black bears).

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