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Evanston, IL, United States

Belaire J.A.,University of Illinois at Chicago | Belaire J.A.,St. Edwards University | Westphal L.M.,1033 University Place | Minor E.S.,University of Illinois at Chicago
Landscape Ecology

Context: The conservation value of residential landscapes is becoming increasingly apparent in our urbanizing world. The ecological characteristics of residential areas are largely determined by the decisions of many individual “managers.” In these complex socio-ecological systems, it is important to understand the factors that motivate human decision-making. Objectives: Our first objective was to quantify wildlife resources and management activities in residential landscapes and compare vegetation in front and back yards. Our second objective was to test three hypotheses linked with variation in yards: socioeconomic characteristics, neighborhood design factors, and perceptions of neighborhood birds. Methods: We conducted surveys of over 900 residents in 25 Chicago-area neighborhoods to examine the wildlife resources contained in front and back yards and the social factors associated with variation in yards. We used a multi-scalar approach to examine among-yard and among-neighborhood variation in residential landscapes. Results: Results indicate that back yards contain more wildlife resources than front yards, including greater vegetation complexity, more plants with fruit/berries, and more plants intended to attract birds. Furthermore, different hypotheses explain variation in front and back yards. Perceptions of birds were most important in explaining variation in back yard vegetation and wildlife-friendly resources per parcel, while neighbors’ yards and socioeconomic characteristics best explained front yard vegetation. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the importance of back yards as an unexplored and underestimated resource for biodiversity. In addition, the results provide insight into the complex factors linked with yard decisions, notably that residents’ connections with neighborhood birds appear to translate to on-the-ground actions. © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA). Source

Atwell R.C.,Iowa State University | Schulte L.A.,Iowa State University | Westphal L.M.,1033 University Place
Land Use Policy

Conservation of ecosystem services in agricultural regions worldwide is foundational to, but often perceived to be in competition with, other societal outcomes, including food and energy production and thriving rural communities. To address this tension, we engaged regional leaders in agriculture, conservation, and policy from the state of Iowa (USA) in a participatory workshop and follow-up interviews. Our goal was to determine constraints to, and leverage points for, broad-scale implementation of practices that use perennial vegetation to bolster ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. Qualitative analysis of workshop and interview data highlighted the complexity involved in achieving multi-objective societal outcomes across privately owned, working landscapes-especially as the Corn Belt region enters a period of rapid reorganization driven by the demand for bioenergy crops. These leaders indicated that initiatives focusing on perennials have the potential to span differences between conservation and agricultural interests by blurring the distinction between working lands and protected areas. Landscape change that transcends private property boundaries to accomplish this goal is dependent upon: (1) facilitation of vertical and horizontal forms of social capital between social actors from different scales and perspectives, and (2) scale appropriate mechanisms that increase the value of perennial practices for farm owners and operators. Our data highlight the adaptive capacity of regional actors to act as intermediaries to shape macro-scale markets, technologies, and policies in ways that are compatible with the needs, the capabilities, and the conservation of local human and natural resources. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Gavier-Pizarro G.I.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | Gavier-Pizarro G.I.,Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria | Radeloff V.C.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | Stewart S.I.,1033 University Place | And 2 more authors.
Landscape Ecology

Forests throughout the US are invaded by non-native invasive plants. Rural housing may contribute to non-native plant invasions by introducing plants via landscaping, and by creating habitat conditions favorable for invaders. The objective of this paper was to test the hypothesis that rural housing is a significant factor explaining the distribution of invasive non-native plants in temperate forests of the Midwestern US. In the Baraboo Hills, Wisconsin, we sampled 105 plots in forest interiors. We recorded richness and abundance of the most common invasive non-native plants and measured rural housing, human-caused landscape fragmentation (e. g. roads and forest edges), forest structure and topography. We used regression analysis to identify the variables more related to the distribution of non-native invasive plants (best subset and hierarchical partitioning analyses for richness and abundance and logistic regression for presence/absence of individual species). Housing variables had the strongest association with richness of non-native invasive plants along with distance to forest edge and elevation, while the number of houses in a 1 km buffer around each plot was the variable most strongly associated with abundance of non-native invasive plants. Rhamnus cathartica and Lonicera spp. were most strongly associated with rural housing and fragmentation. Berberis thumbergii and Rosa multiflora were associated with gentle slopes and low elevation, while Alliaria petiolata was associated with higher cover of native vegetation and stands with no recent logging history. Housing development inside or adjacent to forests of high conservation value and the use of non-native invasive plants for landscaping should be discouraged. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Source

Gavier-Pizarro G.I.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | Gavier-Pizarro G.I.,Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria | Radeloff V.C.,University of Wisconsin - Madison | Stewart S.I.,1033 University Place | And 2 more authors.
Ecological Applications

Understanding the factors related to invasive exotic species distributions at broad spatial scales has important theoretical and management implications, because biological invasions are detrimental to many ecosystem functions and processes. Housing development facilitates invasions by disturbing land cover, introducing nonnative landscaping plants, and facilitating dispersal of propagules along roads. To evaluate relationships between housing and the distribution of invasive exotic plants, we asked (1) how strongly is housing associated with the spatial distribution of invasive exotic plants compared to other anthropogenic and environmental factors; (2) what type of housing pattern is related to the richness of invasive exotic plants; and (3) do invasive plants represent ecological traits associated with specific housing patterns Using two types of regression analysis (best subset analysis and hierarchical partitioning analysis), we found that invasive exotic plant richness was equally or more strongly related to housing variables than to other human (e.g., mean income and roads) and environmental (e.g., topography and forest cover) variables at the county level across New England. Richness of invasive exotic plants was positively related to area of wildland-urban interface (WUI), low-density residential areas, change in number of housing units between 1940 and 2000, mean income, plant productivity (NDVI), and altitudinal range and rainfall; it was negatively related to forest area and connectivity. Plant life history traits were not strongly related to housing patterns. We expect the number of invasive exotic plants to increase as a result of future housing growth and suggest that housing development be considered a primary factor in plans to manage and monitor invasive exotic plant species. © 2010 by the Ecological Society of America. Source

McCaffrey S.M.,1033 University Place | Stidham M.,Oregon State University | Toman E.,Ohio State University | Shindler B.,Oregon State University
Environmental Management

In recent years, altered forest conditions, climate change, and the increasing numbers of homes built in fire prone areas has meant that wildfires are affecting more people. An important part of minimizing the potential negative impacts of wildfire is engaging homeowners in mitigating the fire hazard on their land. It is therefore important to understand what makes homeowners more or less willing to take action. The research presented here comes from a study that interviewed a total of 198 homeowners in six communities in the western United States about the activities they had undertaken to mitigate their fire risk, the factors that contributed to their decisions, and their future intentions. The current paper reports on findings from the first half of the longitudinal study, after 3 years we will return to interview the current homeowner on the same properties to assess maintenance actions and facilitating and limiting factors. Overall we found a body of individuals who understand the fire risk, are taking numerous mitigation actions, and think that these actions have reduced their risk. These homeowners typically did not expect the government to do it for them: they wanted information about what to do and, in some cases, assistance with the work, but saw taking care of their property primarily as their responsibility. Responses also show that key information sources and motivating factors vary by location and that it is not inherently necessary to have relationships between community members to create defensible space. © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2011. Source

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