Importance of Household Decisions

Residential landscapes are important features of the urban ecosystem in the Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER study area.

Residential landscapes are a critical ecological feature of the urban ecosystem because they are widespread and are made up of highly designed and managed combinations of plants (e.g., landscaping) and animals (e.g., pets). For example, as Phoenix has urbanized, native Sonoran desert ecosystems have been replaced by an "urban oasis" that includes both lush, watered lawns and carefully managed desert-like landscapes. CAP's socio-ecological research evaluates the household decision-making, perceptions, and priorities that result in particular residential landscapes.

LTER research at the CAP, BES, and PIE sites reveals numerous complex interactions between social and ecological systems that occur at the scales of households and neighborhoods. Researchers have shown that:

  1. Household income is correlated with plant and bird diversity
  2. People tend to manage their front yards and back yards differently due to social considerations
  3. Preferences and attitudes for residential landscapes depend, in part, on history, gender, culture, and economics
For further reading: 
Larson, K., D. Casagrande, S. Harlan, and S. Yabiku. 2009. Residents' yard choices and rationales in a desert city: Social priorities, ecological impacts, and decision tradeoffs. Environmental Management 44:921-937.
Yabiku, S., D. G. Casagrande, and E. Farley-Metzger. 2008. Preferences for landscape choice in a Southwestern desert city. Environment and Behavior 40:382-400.
Hope, D., C. Gries, W. Zhu, W. F. Fagan, C. L. Redman, N. B. Grimm, A. L. Nelson, C. Martin, and A. Kinzig. 2003. Socioeconomics drive urban plant diversity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 100(15):8788-8792.

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