CAP LTER is a multi-disciplinary, urban ecological investigation of the socio-ecological systems in central Arizona. The central research question that guides the project's research is: How do the services provided by evolving urban ecosystems affect human outcomes and behavior, and how does human action (responses) alter patterns of ecosystem structure and function, and ultimately, urban sustainability, in a dynamic environment? To address this question, the CAP LTER project relies on data from five foundational research areas and analyses conducted in four integrative project areas. In addition, CAP conducts synthesis activities across all project areas, focusing on results from the first 12 years of CAP research, as well as activities to construct scenarios of future change in Central Arizona. Integrative Project Areas Climate, Ecosystems, and People: Our central goal is to understand interactions among urban climate, ecosystems, and social systems in the Phoenix metropolitan region. Our work will advance basic science while facilitating decision-making about the mitigation of and adaptations to urban climate change in arid socio-ecological systems. We will create a local “geography” of climate that incorporates demands on resources (landscape, water, and energy), stakeholder perceptions of climate change, economic indicators (willingness to pay for ecosystem services), human vulnerability indicators (heat-related comfort, morbidity, and mortality), and models of future weather and climate in the CAP region. Research questions to be addressed:
Water Dynamics in a Desert City: How does the management of urban water systems in cities affect feedbacks and tradeoffs among water-related ecosystem services, and how will climate change and uncertainty affect these tradeoffs? We define the urban water system as the human capital and technology that provides water and manages wastewater and stormwater in cities. Management is at all scales, from regional water management to choices made at the individual level in domestic water use. Water IPA research will focus on the "riparianization" of desert ecosystems as urbanization reallocates water broadly across the landscape, compared to the prehistoric distribution of water in a few large rivers (this concept may be more broadly generalized as the "arboreolization" of grassland ecosystems by urbanization). Riparianization may be the fundamentally most important effect of urbanization in aridland cities. It is a product of the conversion of natural hydrology to manmade hydrology via modification (local changes), procurement (regional changes), and management (temporal changes). Research questions to be addressed:
Biogeochemical Patterns, Processes, and Human Outcomes: Energy flow and material cycling in ecosystems are the processes that support other ecosystem services, and as such, are often hidden from human perception and inadvertently managed. On the other hand, deliberate human manipulation of nutrient cycles has supported societal advances such as the "green revolution" and technological and infrastructural improvements. Research in CAP has long centered on understanding how urban biogeochemical cycles differ from those of undeveloped ecosystems and the consequences of those altered cycles for human well-being. Biogeochemical fluxes describe the transport of material between geochemical reservoirs, the press events of nutrient deposition, and ecosystem services including nutrient cycling and regulation of air and water quality. The organization of this research is multi-scaled, from individual households/yards and agricultural or desert plots to the regional socio-ecological system. Research questions to be addressed:
Research questions to be addressed:
Foundational Research Areas Land Use, Land Cover, and Land Architecture: A suite of remote-sensing activities producing land-use and land-cover products for CAP research at fine, medium, and coarse scales and enabling parcel-level, metropolitan-scale, and megapolitan-scale analyses. North Desert Village Experimental Suburb: A research platform for investigations of the impact of residential landscaping types on microclimate, primary productivity, arthropod biodiversity, and human ecological values and perceptions. Survey 200: A field-based monitoring component investigating ecosystem change over time, repeated every five years at over 200 locations spread across the urbanized Phoenix metropolitan region and surrounding desert. Phoenix Area Social Survey (PASS): A social survey conducted every five years to households in 40 neighborhoods co-located with Survey 200 to investigate human perceptions, values, and behaviors concerning the environmental domains of CAP LTER. Economic and Census Data Mining: A set of activities to mine existing social, economic, and spatial data sets for data that are fundamental for understanding linkages between human and biophysical systems. Synthesis Activities Synthesis of 12 Years of CAP LTER Research: This activity synthesizes research results from the first 12 years of CAP research, focusing on the central research question, How do the patterns and processes of urbanization alter the ecological conditions of the city and its surrounding environment, and how do ecological consequences of these developments feed back to the social system to generate future changes? Answering this question allows the project to critically examine: the overall state of our knowledge; the accomplishments and societal as well as scientific usefulness of this knowledge; and any needed adjustments to future CAP research. Sustainable Futures for Central Arizona: Building on our 12-year synthesis, we are developing future scenarios for the central Arizona socio-ecological system that address the critical question, How do biophysical drivers (e.g. climate change) and societal drivers (e.g. the pattern of land-use change or land architecture) influence the interaction and feedbacks between ecosystems and society as mediated through ecosystem services, and thereby influence the future of the urban socio-ecological system? Our work involves engaging in two sets of scenario activities. One focuses on sustainable land architecture and assesses the vulnerability, resilience, and sustainability of metropolitan Phoenix under current and potential climate drivers. This incorporates quantitative assessments of tradeoffs between ecosystem services and human outcomes as well as a consideration of the effect of land architecture on these tradeoffs. The second set of activities, integrated participatory scenarios, builds upon the sustainable land architecture scenarios, the 12-year synthesis and new data and models from CAP research and focuses on socio-ecological futures for metropolitan Phoenix. All scenario activities involve use of Arizona State University’s Decision Theater as a tool for visualizing scenarios and for creating decision-friendly versions of the models that can be used with policymakers, planners, and community development practitioners.
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