Sevilleta LTER to receive collaborative ULTRA-Ex funding!

The Sevilleta LTER in collaboration with the Jornada (JOR) and Central Arizona Phoenix (CAP) LTER sites will receive an ULTRA-Ex award from NSF. This is a planning grant to develop a cooperative effort in urban social-ecological research between and across the three sites.

The abstract of proposed research:

Rapid population and physical expansion of cities worldwide has increased the urgency for understanding the drivers of urbanization and consequences for human beings and the environment. Present understanding of urbanization as a coupled socio-ecological system 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. Ecosystem services provide a service and function that is scientifically measureable and derived from a scientific understanding of ecosystem structures or processes, such as cooling from tree canopy cover. Ecosystem preferences are measurements of what ecosystem services people are willing to pay for, such as being close to recreation areas or clean air, that are often revealed in house prices.

This research will investigate 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. A comparative, gradient approach using the metropolitan areas of Las Cruces and Albuquerque, NM and Phoenix, AZ as case studies will be employed. 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. Primary methods include stakeholder forums and focus groups with decision-makers, hedonic modeling of house prices and ecosystem service amenities, and biophysical modeling of ecosystem services.

To date, the degree to which decision makers consider ecosystem services and preferences in their decisions remains unclear. In an era when urban sustainability is increasingly important for guiding policy, this research will address this understudied but critical aspect of urban governance. 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. 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 proposed research has enormous potential for influencing land and water management in the southwest.