OOS 10-5 - Home sweet home: Strategies for moving biodiversity conservation into the suburbs

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: 9:20 AM
Portland Blrm 257, Oregon Convention Center


Michael McKinney, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Background/Question/Methods . Much of the research devoted to urbanization impacts on biodiversity has focused on public land such as parks. However, most of the land in urbanizing areas consists of non-public “private” lands such as residential and commercial properties. Based on areal considerations alone, these lands may therefore offer great potential for mitigating urban impacts on native plant and animal species. However, we need to develop strategies to overcome several obstacles to promoting biodiversity conservation on private lands, such as the overuse of non-native landscaping plants and the lack of any coordinated landscaping within and among housing subdivisions. Using survey data from a growing urban area in Tennessee (Knox County) I explore the social and biological potential of using non-public lands to promote native species conservation in this urban area.

Results/Conclusions . Overall results can be summarized as follows: 1) As expected, most trees and shrubs in the suburban landscapes are dominated by non-native ornamental plants. 2) Using published accounts I show that most of these ornamental plants provide inferior habitat and food compared to native plants. 3) Most homeowners (74%) are slightly to very interested in having more native plant species, with the major obstacle being lack of familiarity with natives. 4) Perhaps surprisingly, many homeowners (31%) would favor making native shrubs and trees a requirement in their neighborhood association agreement. 5) Older residential landscapes (> 40 yr) have much higher species diversity than newer ones but there is no statistical difference between homeowners in older and newer residential area in their interest in native plant landscaping. 6) Property owners of commercial properties have a much lower interest in native plant landscaping (<21%), with owners of private cemeteries (62%) and churches (55%) have intermediate levels of interest. 7) Surveyed home builders showed very little interest in native plant landscaping (11%) but most (92%) noted that native plant landscaping was not an obstacle to selling homes and most (88%) agreed that homes could be completely landscaped with native plants with no impact on sales as long as the aesthetic and ease of maintenance values were the same.