Why do our cities look increasingly alike and what are the long-term ecological and environmental ramifications of homogenization?
A U.S. National Science Foundation funded multi-institutional research program titled “MacroSystems Biology: Research on Biological Systems at Regional to Continental Scales” by Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, USDA Forest Service, University of Vermont, Florida International University, Arizona State University, University of Minnesota, University of California at Irvine, Clark University, Indiana University and the Marine Biological Laboratory.
Urban, suburban and exurban ecosystems are important and increasing in the U.S. An apparent, but functionally untested result of urban land use change is homogenization across cities, where neighborhoods in very different parts of the country have similar patterns of roads, residential lots, commercial areas and aquatic features. We hypothesize that this homogenization also involves ecological structure and functions relevant to ecosystem carbon and nitrogen dynamics, with continental scale implications. Further, we suggest that understanding urban homogenization will provide the basis for understanding the impacts of urban land use change from local to continental scales. We will use datasets ranging from household surveys to regional-scale remote sensing across six metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) that cover the major climatic regions of the US (Phoenix, AZ, Miami, FL, Baltimore, MD, Boston, MA, St. Paul, MN and Los Angeles, CA) to determine how household characteristics correlate with landscaping decisions, land management practices and ecological structure and functions at local, regional and continental scales.