Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Database on environmental impact of major urban ecosystems created

Date:
May 1, 2011
Source:
University of California - Santa Barbara
Summary:
An innovative study examines the environmental impact of major urban ecosystems. The team researched such details as airplane and motor vehicle travel, paper and plastic use, recycling and waste disposal, household utility records, and on-site measurements of vegetation and landscape.

UCSB researchers are using satellite imagery to study vegetation (red areas) and urbanization (gray areas) across two counties (white outlines) in the Minneapolis Saint Paul, Minnesota region. The 3100 households surveyed in the project are shown by the dots.
Credit: UCSB

A team of scientists has produced an innovative new study of the environmental impact of major urban ecosystems, published in the April issue of the journal Ecological Applications.

The team includes Joseph P. McFadden and Jennifer Y. King, both of UC Santa Barbara's Department of Geography. They analyzed environmental data gleaned from the "Twin Cities Household Ecosystem Project," a study of 3,100 households in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., and surrounding areas. The article is the first major paper to come out of the project.

The data analysis yielded a huge bank of interconnected information, with many applications. The results will be useful to a vast number of individuals and groups, including economists, engineers, hydrologists, transportation specialists, urban designers, political scientists, lawyers, environmental agencies and groups, NASA, and others. The results will help in the crafting of messages and designing of systems that will assist in preserving the environment, and possibly curbing climate change, the researchers said.

McFadden and King were recruited by UCSB's Department of Geography from the University of Minnesota, where they began work on the Twin Cities project. The highly interdisciplinary nature of UCSB's Department of Geography allows them to manage their part of the project with ease. "This may be the best place in the world for our part of this research," said McFadden, the principal investigator at UCSB.

The researchers explained that the project is unique in both its scale and comprehensive approach to studying urban ecosystems. It covers the whole span of a major metropolitan region, from the city center to the "exurban" fringe, 34 miles out, across two counties.

"We measured an enormous range of different activities that make up each household's impacts on the environment," said McFadden. "All of those measurements were made on the same set of households at the same point in time. That allows us to see the connections between different household activities and impacts."

The team researched such details as airplane and motor vehicle travel, paper and plastic use, recycling and waste disposal, household utility records, and on-site measurements of vegetation and landscape. "The resulting database is a treasure trove of information that can be mined to discover how the interplay of different factors --physical-biological, demographic, or social-psychological -- determines the way that household ecosystems function," said McFadden.

King's specialty is biogeochemistry and her research focuses on understanding what controls the cycling of elements through the Earth system. The overall goal of her work is to advance understanding of regional and global biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem processes.

King explained that the Twin Cities study is producing critically needed knowledge about how much material -- such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus -- flows through households, and how people make choices about consumption, recycling, and waste. This provides the information base needed to develop better ways of reducing the environmental impacts of everyday household living. "With the findings of this study, we'll be able to identify the actions that individuals and households can take to improve environmental quality -- and reduce their contributions to soil, water, and air pollution," said King.

McFadden's research is aimed at understanding how vegetation affects the climate, air quality, and water cycling of cities and suburbs, and how this knowledge can be used to improve urban design and regional planning. On this project, McFadden uses satellite data, geographic information systems (GIS), and models to extrapolate from the 3,100 households in the metropolitan region.

Although the specific measurements taken in Minneapolis-St. Paul can't be directly applied to all cities, the insights that researchers are gaining into how different factors influence people's choices and ultimately their households' effects on the environment, may apply broadly to other cities. King points out that the choices individuals make every day, such as the things people buy and the ways in which they travel, are important. The Twin Cities project represents a big leap forward in specifically measuring the impacts of these choices.

Other co-authors from the University of Minnesota are Cinzia Fissore, Larry A. Baker, and Sarah Hobbie. Ina Jakobsdottir, formerly with the University of Minnesota, is also a co-author.

The National Science Foundation funded the study as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. UCSB received $500,000, and the University of Minnesota received $1 million.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Barbara. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cinzia Fissore, Lawrence Baker, Sarah Hobbie, Jennifer King, Joseph McFadden, Kristen Nelson, Ina Jakobsdottir. Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus fluxes in household ecosystems in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota, urban region. Ecological Applications, 2010; 110220084802040 DOI: 10.1890/10-0386.1

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Barbara. "Database on environmental impact of major urban ecosystems created." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110429095227.htm>.
University of California - Santa Barbara. (2011, May 1). Database on environmental impact of major urban ecosystems created. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110429095227.htm
University of California - Santa Barbara. "Database on environmental impact of major urban ecosystems created." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110429095227.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

AFP (July 22, 2014) As part of the 14-ship convoy that will accompany the Costa Concordia from the port of Giglio to the port of Genoa, there will be a boat carrying experts to look out for dolphins and whales from crossing the path of the Concordia. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins