Redlining reduces bird biodiversity in LA neighborhoods

Written by Zeke Reed

Bird nest on top of Mt Lee overlooking Los Angeles. Photo by Getty Images.

Redlining was the government-sponsored practice that deemed certain zip codes — mainly those home to low-income people of color — too “hazardous” to receive home loans. As a result, entire communities were largely excluded from the real estate market. 

While the practice was outlawed in the late 1960s, the legacy of redlining continues to shape LA’s geography. A new study from Cal State LA reveals a novel dimension to this inequality: disparities in the number and diversity of birds across neighborhoods. 

Wealthy LA neighborhoods have more green spaces than redlined poorer ones. That means more birds, according to Eric M. Wood, professor of avian and urban ecology at Cal State LA and the study’s lead author.

“Once you start putting down parks, trees, the green amenities, you introduce a different level of that habitat that's going to attract a different variety and a different diversity of birds that you just don't get when you're in some of those places where it's just paved over,” Wood explains.

This discrepancy has a human cost. Wood and his co-authors argue that bird variety and other types of biodiversity have an impact on overall community health and well-being.

“When you're thinking about access to nature … it's just good for all of us, our public health. … If you don't get that release, it's gonna affect things in a negative way,” Wood says.

So how can LA address this disparity? Wood says it will require community-led investments in “green amenities'' like trees and shrubs. Targeted interventions can lead to long-term improvements in biodiversity. 

“Birds are amazing because they respond so quickly to change,” Wood notes. “If there is something like a restoration, where you're bringing in some type of natural habitat conditions, really quickly they respond and they start showing up.”



  • Eric M. Wood - professor of avian and urban ecology at CSULA