Collaborative Research: Land and Water Use Decision-Making and Ecosystem Services along a Southwestern Socio-Ecological Gradient

Project: Research project

Project Details


Collaborative Research: Land and Water Use Decision-Making and Ecosystem Services along a Southwestern Socio-Ecological Gradient Collaborative Research: Land and Water Use Decision-Making and Ecosystem Services along a Southwestern Socio-Ecological Gradient Understanding the socio-ecological dynamics of urban areas is limited by inadequate knowledge of the type, quantity, and quality of ecosystem services delivered in metropolitan regions and how actors incorporate considerations of ecosystem services and household preferences into management decisions. The principal question of this proposal is to understand how decision makers respond to and make land and water use decisions based on measured and preferred ecosystem services on the wildland-rural-urban fringe in the arid Southwest. We employ a comparative, gradient approach using the metropolitan areas of Las Cruces and Albuquerque, NM and Phoenix, AZ as case studies. Primary methods include stakeholder forums and focus groups with decision makers, hedonic modeling of houses prices and ecosystem service amenities, and biophysical modeling of ecosystem services. Intellectual Merit: By examining three cities along a population, economic, and physical extent gradient in an arid environment, this research will add to our knowledge about scaling in the urbanization process in a resource scarce environment. Choosing a Southwestern regional context will provide greater insight into the urbanization processes in desert cities, which are underrepresented in urban theory. This research brings together individuals from the social and natural sciences accustomed to working in an interdisciplinary environment through the LTER and other networks. Many of the investigators helped author the LTER Decadal Plan and are enthusiastic supporters and leaders of a socio-ecological research agenda for understanding urban ecosystems. Valuable findings have resulted from a decade of examining metropolitan Phoenix as a coupled socio-ecological system. This research offers an opportunity to compare results with cities in arid environments, and will produce generalizable results and theory on the functioning of desert urban ecosystems. Quantifying ecosystem services is an emerging science, and most of the models and results are based on humid temperate and non-urban ecosystems. Our research activities will add new data from arid urban environments for cities of different population sizes and extents which can be used to improve ecosystem service modeling. Another novel characteristic of this research is the combination of measured ecosystem services with ecosystem preferences, which typically are treated separately. Integrated knowledge of ecosystem services and preferences can improve the efficacy of land and water decision making. In an era when urban sustainability is increasingly important for guiding policy, this research will address this understudied but critical aspect of urban governance. The proposed activities will contribute important empirical data and a deeper understanding of the drivers, outcomes, and processes of land and water use, cover, and change. This will be fundamental for the long-term goal of understanding feedback relationships between land and water use, decision making, and ecosystem services. Broader Impacts: This research will provide knowledge of ecosystem services and preferences to practitioners in arid urbanizing regions, which they can use to formulate and facilitate best management practices. Proposed interviews and stakeholder forums will give decision makers and citizen groups a voice in how land and water should be managed on the rapidly growing fringe. The proposed activities will also allow the research team to assess which ecosystem services and preferences are important to stakeholders so that future research can address those concerns. Best management practices that explicitly take into account ecosystem services and preferences will assist decision makers in meeting their sustainability goals. The activities and results will reach decision makers at the city, county, state, and federal levels, concerned citizen groups, real estate developers, and tribal groups. The propose
Effective start/end date10/1/103/31/13


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $59,143.00


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