Wednesday, August 5, 2009: 8:00 AM-11:30 AM
Pecos, Albuquerque Convention Center
Loren B. Byrne
Loren B. Byrne
Lawns and gardens are ubiquitous features of urbanized landscapes. Although research has been conducted about how to manage ornamental plants and their pests for many years, less is known about the basic ecological dynamics of lawns and gardens and how their creation and management affects larger-scale environmental issues. However, lawns and gardens provide ideal foci for interdisciplinary urban ecology research because their ecological characteristics are dominated by a variety of human management activities. Indeed, comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of lawns and gardens is not possible without considering human sociocultural variables. People's decisions about how to manage residential and other urbanized landscapes are affected by a dynamic mosaic of environmental, aesthetic, social, economic and technological factors. These factors, in turn, guide adoption (or not) of a wide variety of management practices—including plant selection, pruning and watering regimes, and chemical inputs—that affect the ecology of a particular patch of garden or lawn. The objective of this symposium is to examine lawns and gardens as complex socio-ecological systems with an eye toward assessing how their design, creation and management affects the ecological variables (especially biodiversity, food web dynamics and C and N cycling), ecosystem services and sustainability of urbanized environments. A second objective is to discuss opportunities for using gardens and lawns as part of education programs about ecology and sustainable environmental management. Topics to be discussed by the presenters represent a wide range topics relevant to understanding the sociocultural drivers and ecological effects of lawn and garden management including: plant selection and garden design, pest management and food webs, nutrient management and biogeochemical cycling, holistic ecosystem management, aesthetic values, and relationships between education and management practices. This symposium has relevance to the growing scientific and public interests in urban ecology and need for relevant scientific information about how to sustainably manage urbanized landscapes. As such, ecological knowledge about lawns and gardens and their sustainable management overlaps well with the 2009 ESA conference theme. In addition, the symposium theme is expected to be of broader interest to ESA members because thinking about the ecology of lawns and gardens represents a new frontier in ecological research and education even though the subjects are readily familiar to all of us. Yet, it is because they are so familiar that they are powerful foci for ecologists to exploit for our broader objective of understanding how to create sustainable socio-ecological systems.