Globally, residential development is a leading driver of natural resource consumption, native species decline and fossil fuel emissions.
oday, residential development covers one out of every four acres of the land in the United States, and is predicted to more than double by 2100.
In many communities, local governments and planners are adopting sustainable development practices to address residential development impacts on human well-being and the environment. These sustainable development practices include considerations of a healthy environment, a robust economy, and an equitable society.
But a new paper from Colorado State University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and others shows that residential development research is lacking when it comes to achieving key sustainability objectives because in most cases it is limited by a single discipline perspective rather than considering sustainable development's components holistically.
The authors reviewed 566 studies conducted between 1961 and 2011 on the environmental, economic, and social impacts of residential development and open-space preservation in the U.S. They considered where the research efforts were lacking, and how they could be improved to inform sustainability in communities.
They found that less than three percent of all the studies employed at least two of the three disciplines. No studies included all three. In addition, studies from different disciplines measured different impacts of residential development. For example, most environmental and social studies focused on negative impacts of residential development on natural and human systems, respectively, while economic studies focused on positive effects of open space on home and land values.
"The problem with a single-discipline perspective is that we are missing some novel insights and important trade-offs that are only apparent when we look at environmental, economic, and social effects simultaneously," said WCS Associate Conservationist and CSU Faculty Affiliate, Sarah Reed.
One such multidisciplinary study identified that future development scenarios that are aesthetically appealing to residents are also more ecologically beneficial, leading the authors to speculate that the scenarios may be undervalued in terms of their joint benefits to those groups. "Ultimately," says Reed, "these interdisciplinary discoveries will be most helpful for designing sustainable communities."
The authors say the lack of interdisciplinary studies to date may be partly attributable to institutional barriers, the disciplinary nature of most journals, and nature of tools available that shape research efforts.
The majority of studies focused on environmental aspects of residential development, and predominantly looked at species abundance and richness, community composition, and habitat.
"Increasingly, we know how plants and animals respond to development patterns, but we don't fully understand why. Are some animals attracted or repelled by development because of changes in food availability, predation intensity, or competition with introduced species? The answers to these questions could help us provide better habitat for human sensitive species in areas undergoing development," said lead author and CSU Assistant Professor, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Liba Pejchar.
Less than 5 percent of studies in the sample focused on ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling and carbon storage. "Different patterns of residential development may well influence human and wildlife health by changing the flow of important ecosystem services. These services, such as clean and abundant water, and the spread or reduction of infectious diseases, remain poorly understood in residential landscapes," Pejchar added.
To move beyond current understanding and limitations in research focus, the authors propose an action agenda that includes developing additional long-term research sites in urbanizing regions, and securing additional sources for funding.
"Many of these studies were conducted in the same places, over the same time periods, and funded by the same organizations," says Reed. "We are missing important opportunities to collaborate across disciplines and improve sustainable development practices in communities throughout the country."
"Consequences of residential development for biodiversity and human well-being," appears currently in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Authors include: Liba Pejchar of Colorado State University; Sarah E. Reed of the Wildlife Conservation Society and CSU; Patrick Bixler of the University of Oregon; Lindsay Ex of the City of Fort Collins; and Miranda H. Mockrin of the U.S.D.A. Forest Service.
To see a copy of the paper, please click http://www.
This work was supported by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, the Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability, and the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Scott Smith | EurekAlert!
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy