Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
Florida Coastal Everglades LTER - Project Information
Project Information

Grass, Water, and Neighborhoods: Is Urbanization Making America Socially and Ecologically Homogeneous?

Short-term project
Start date: 01-Sep-2009          End date: 01-Sep-2011
Contact person: Rinku Roy Chowdhury

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Land use and management practices associated with residential parcels (e.g., aesthetic/recreational/economic uses, land-cover choices, irrigation and chemical applications) are rooted in and simultaneously impact local ecological (e.g., water demand and quality, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling) and social (e.g., stratification and status, environmental perceptions, zoning) processes in significant ways. As the dominant yard-cover type for single-family homes, grass is ubiquitous in human-dominated ecosystems spanning urban and suburban areas, where significant amounts of water and chemical inputs are necessary to maintain the traditional notion of a hyper-green, weed-free lawn. Especially with post-WWII (sub)urbanization, the proliferation of standard residential developments has raised important questions about the homogenization of US society and landscapes. Some scholars have suggested that, regardless of their ecological or biophysical settings, urban and suburban places may be more similar to each other than they are to relatively 'natural' areas within their metropolitan environs (the homogenization hypothesis). One way to test the extent and nature of the homogenization thesis is to simultaneously examine residential landscapes produced by similar social group or neighborhood types in diverse cities. Claritas PRIZM™ market segmentation data, available at census Block Group scales, are useful as first approximations of neighborhood scale socio-demographic characteristics, and array neighborhoods according to urbanicity, affluence and lifestage (e.g., younger, mid-stage, mature or older households/families). This project examines the social-ecological dynamics of residential landscapes by household characteristics and neighborhood scale social structures within and across major U.S. cities (specifically, Phoenix, AZ, Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, Miami, FL, Minneapolis, MN, and Los Angeles, CA). At scales ranging from households and neighborhoods to municipalities and broader scales, related research is ongoing at multiple LTER sites (CAP, BES, PIE, and FCE, among others), with each employing complementary theoretical and methodological approaches to understand the social and ecological drivers and impacts of lawns and residential landscapes.

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National Science Foundation logo This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DEB-1832229, #DEB-1237517, #DBI-0620409, and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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