CAP LTER research compares urban ecology in America's cities


Your yard in the Valley of the Sun may have many commonalities with a yard in wintry Minnesota. The plants you choose, the fertilizer you use, and how you landscape your yard may have a larger, widespread impact than you think.

A recent NY Times article profiled ASU's Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research's four-year NSF project analyzing how and why America's urban landscapes are starting to look the same. ASU is partnering with universities from Boston, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Miami, and Los Angeles to develop theories to explain what they call "ecological homogenization."

It is noted in the article that over time, Americans have progressed a single type of landscape preference. The article's author, Maggie Koerth-Baker, writes:

"Over the course of the last century, we’ve developed those preferences and started applying them to a wide variety of natural landscapes, shifting all places — whether desert, forest or prairie — closer to the norm. Since the 1950s, for example, Phoenix has been remade into a much wetter place that more closely resembles the pond-dotted ecosystem of the Northeast."

Sharon Hall, a sustainability scientist and project investigator, hopes that CAP LTER's research will show the impacts of our everyday decisions and the implications of ecological homogenization.

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