COS 151-4
Different social drivers, including perceptions of urban wildlife, explain the ecological resources in front vs. back yards

Friday, August 14, 2015: 9:00 AM
347, Baltimore Convention Center
J. Amy Belaire, Wild Basin Creative Research Center, St. Edward's University, Austin, TX
Lynne Westphal, Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Evanston, IL
Emily Minor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL

Residential landscapes exemplify social-ecological systems where environmental decisions are made by many individual “managers.” Understanding the factors that motivate yard decisions is important in achieving conservation goals in urban landscapes. Here we examined the wildlife resources in front and back yards and the explanatory power of three hypotheses linked with yard variation:  socioeconomic characteristics, neighborhood design factors, and perceptions of neighborhood birds. We used a multi-scalar approach to examine among-yard and among-neighborhood variation in residential landscapes. 


Results indicate that back yards contain more wildlife resources than front yards, including greater vegetation complexity, more plants with fruit/berries, and more plants intended to attract birds. Furthermore, different hypotheses explain variation in front and back yards.  Perceptions of birds were most important in explaining variation in back yard vegetation and wildlife-friendly resources per parcel, while neighbors’ yards and socioeconomic characteristics best explained front yard vegetation.  This study demonstrates the importance of back yards as an unexplored and underestimated resource for biodiversity.  In addition, the results provide insight into the complex factors linked with yard decisions, notably that residents’ connections with neighborhood birds appear to translate to on-the-ground actions.