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Attitudes towards ecosystem services in urban riparian parks

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Urban sustainability is a critical component of sustainable human societies. Urban riparian parks are used here as a case study seeking to understand the social-ecological relationships between the subjective evaluation

Urban sustainability is a critical component of sustainable human societies. Urban riparian parks are used here as a case study seeking to understand the social-ecological relationships between the subjective evaluation of ecosystem services and the vision and management of one kind of green infrastructure. This study explored attitudes towards ecosystem services, asking whether 1) the tripartite model is an effective framing to measure attitudes towards ecosystem services; 2) what the attitudes towards ecosystem services are and whether they differ between two types of park space; and 3) what the relationship is between management and the attitudinal assessment of ecosystem services by park users. A questionnaire was administered to 104 urban riparian park users in Phoenix, AZ evaluating their attitudes towards refugia, aesthetics, microclimate and stormwater regulation, and recreational and educational opportunities. The operationalization of the tripartite model was validated and found reliable, but may not be the whole story in determining attitudes towards ecosystem services. All components of attitude were positive, but attitudes were stronger in a habitat rehabilitation area with densely planted native species and low flows, than in a more classic park with mowed lawns and scattered vegetation, a mix of native and non-native species, and open water. Park users were more positive towards refugia, stormwater regulation, recreation, and educational opportunities in the habitat rehabilitation area. On the other hand, microclimate regulation and aesthetic qualities were valued similarly between the two parks. Most attitudes supported management goals, however park users valued stormwater regulation less than managers. Qualitative answers suggest that the quality of human interactions differ between the parks and park users consider both elements of society and the physical environment in their subjective evaluations. These findings reveal that park users highly value ecosystem services and that park design and management mediates social-ecological relationships, which should at least underlie the context of economic discussions of service value. This study supports the provision of ecosystem services through green infrastructure and suggests that an integration of park designs throughout urban areas could provide both necessary services as well as expand the platform for social-ecological interactions.

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Date Created
  • 2012

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Shifting the sustainability paradigm: co-creating thriving living systems through regenerative development

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Sustainability research and action in communities should be holistic, integrating sociocultural, biogeophysical, and spiritual components and their temporal and spatial dynamics toward the aim of co-creating thriving living systems. Yet

Sustainability research and action in communities should be holistic, integrating sociocultural, biogeophysical, and spiritual components and their temporal and spatial dynamics toward the aim of co-creating thriving living systems. Yet scientists and practitioners still struggle with such integration. Regenerative development (RD) offers a way forward. RD focuses on shifting the consciousness and thinking underlying (un)sustainability as well as their manifestation in the physical world, creating increasingly higher levels of health and vitality for all life across scales. However, tools are nascent and relatively insular. Until recently, no empirical scientific research studies had been published on RD processes and outcomes.

My dissertation fills this gap in three complementary studies. The first is an integrative review that contextualizes regenerative development within the fields of sustainability, sustainable design and development, and ecology by identifying its conceptual elements and introducing a regenerative landscape development paradigm. The second study integrates complex adaptive systems science, ecology, sustainability, and regenerative development to construct and pilot the first iteration of a holistic sustainable development evaluation tool—the Regenerative Development Evaluation Tool—in two river restoration projects. The third study builds upon the first two, integrating scientific knowledge with existing RD and sustainable community design and development practices and theory to construct and pilot a Regenerative Community Development (RCD) Framework. Results indicate that the RCD Framework and Tools, when used within a regenerative landscape development paradigm, can facilitate: (1) shifts in thinking and development and design outcomes to holistic and regenerative ones; (2) identification of areas where development and design projects can become more regenerative and ways to do so; and (3) identification of factors that potentially facilitate and impede RCD processes. Overall, this research provides a direction and tools for holistic sustainable development as well as foundational studies for further research.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Ecology and the city: a long-term social-ecological examination of the drivers and diversity of urban vegetation

Description

Often, when thinking of cities we envision designed landscapes, where people regulate everything from water to weeds, ultimately resulting in an ecosystem decoupled from biophysical processes. It is unclear, however,

Often, when thinking of cities we envision designed landscapes, where people regulate everything from water to weeds, ultimately resulting in an ecosystem decoupled from biophysical processes. It is unclear, however, what happens when the people regulating these extensively managed landscapes come under stress, whether from unexpected economic fluctuations or from changing climate norms. The overarching question of my dissertation research was: How does urban vegetation change in response to human behavior? To answer this question, I conducted multiscale research in an arid urban ecosystem as well as in a virtual desert city. I used a combination of long-term data and agent-based modeling to examine changes in vegetation across a range of measures influenced by biophysical, climate, institutional, and socioeconomic drivers. At the regional scale, total plant species diversity increased from 2000 to 2010, while species composition became increasingly homogeneous in urban and agricultural areas. At the residential scale, I investigated the effects of biophysical and socioeconomic drivers – the Great Recession of 2007-2010 in particular – on changing residential yard vegetation in Phoenix, AZ. Socioeconomic drivers affected plant composition and increasing richness, but the housing boom from 2000 through 2005 had a stronger influence on vegetation change than the subsequent recession. Surprisingly, annual plant species remained coupled to winter precipitation despite my expectation that their dynamics might be driven by socioeconomic fluctuations. In a modeling experiment, I examined the relative strength of psychological, social, and governance influences on large-scale urban land cover in a desert city. Model results suggested that social norms may be strong enough to lead to large-scale conversion to low water use residential landscaping, and governance may be unnecessary to catalyze residential landscape conversion under the pressure of extreme drought conditions. Overall, my dissertation research showed that urban vegetation is dynamic, even under the presumably stabilizing influence of human management activities. Increasing climate pressure, unexpected socioeconomic disturbances, growing urban populations, and shifting policies all contribute to urban vegetation dynamics. Incorporating these findings into planning policies will contribute to the sustainable management of urban ecosystems.

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  • 2015