New paper: Urban ecological infrastructure for biocultural services

A new study by CAP LTER sustainability scientists evaluated how Phoenix residents perceive and value urban ecological infrastructure (UEI). This research can help urban planners, landscape architects, etc., create UEI that people enjoy and that has biological value.

The authors included Jeffrey A. Brown, Kelli L. Larson, Susannah B. Lerman, Daniel L. Childers, Riley Andrade, Heather L. Bateman, Sharon J. Hall, Paige S. Warren and Abigail M. York. The paper, Influences of Environmental and Social Factors on Perceived Bio-Cultural Services and Disservices, was published October 22, 2020, in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

The abstract follows.

Although the value of urban ecological infrastructure (UEI) is widely recognized, insufficient research has investigated how people perceive the wide variety of UEI. To address this gap, we investigated residents’ perceptions of the coupled value of aesthetic and biological qualities as related to diverse UEI and other environmental and social factors (including personal beliefs and demographics), collectively referred to as bio-cultural services and disservices. We evaluated whether people positively view their neighborhood environments as natural-looking while providing diverse plants and wildlife habitat (services), in contrast to negatively perceived disservices that we evaluated as messy-looking with weeds and pests (disservices). We analyzed survey data from residents (n = 495) in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, United States, coupled with environmental variables (UEI and vegetative cover) compiled from diverse sources. We ran three regression models to compare the relative influence of social and environmental factors independently and combined on the perception of bio-cultural services and disservices. Our results demonstrate the influence of social factors, particularly place identity, neighborhood cohesion, and income, on both bio-cultural services and disservices. Additionally, environmental factors such as vegetation cover increased perceptions of bio-cultural services while decreasing perceived disservices. The effects of proximity to UEI were more varied. While proximity to cropland increased perceived bio-cultural disservices, proximity to desert parks reduced disservices. Although UEI can promote biodiversity and human well-being, all UEI are not perceived the same. Our results underscore the added value of considering both the form of UEI and perceptions among people who live nearby when designing and implementing infrastructure to promote bio-cultural services that are both ecologically and socially valued.