Spatiotemporal patterns, monitoring network design, and environmental justice of air pollution in the Phoenix metropolitan region: a landscape approach
Air pollution is a serious problem in most urban areas around the world, which has a number of negative ecological and human health impacts. As a result, it's vitally important to detect and characterize air pollutants to protect the health of the urban environment and our citizens. An important early step in this process is ensuring that the air pollution monitoring network is properly designed to capture the patterns of pollution and that all social demographics in the urban population are represented. An important aspect in characterizing air pollution patterns is scale in space and time which, along with pattern and process relationships, is a key subject in the field of landscape ecology. Thus, using multiple landscape ecological methods, this dissertation research begins by characterizing and quantifying the multi-scalar patterns of ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM10) in the Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan region. Results showed that pollution patterns are scale-dependent, O3 is a regionally-scaled pollutant at longer temporal scales, and PM10 is a locally-scaled pollutant with patterns sensitive to season. Next, this dissertation examines the monitoring network within Maricopa County. Using a novel multiscale indicator-based approach, the adequacy of the network was quantified by integrating inputs from various academic and government stakeholders. Furthermore, deficiencies were spatially defined and recommendations were made on how to strengthen the design of the network. A sustainability ranking system also provided new insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the network. Lastly, the study addresses the question of whether distinct social groups were experiencing inequitable exposure to pollutants - a key issue of distributive environmental injustice. A novel interdisciplinary method using multi-scalar ambient pollution data and hierarchical multiple regression models revealed environmental inequities between air pollutants and race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic classes. The results indicate that changing the scale of the analysis can change the equitable relationship between pollution and demographics. The scientific findings of the scale-dependent relationships among air pollution patterns, network design, and population demographics, brought to light through this study, can help policymakers make informed decisions for protecting the human health and the urban environment in the Phoenix metropolitan region and beyond.