Ecosystem services in managing residential landscapes: priorities, value dimensions, and cross-regional patterns

K. L. Larson, Kristen C Nelson, S. R. Samples, S. J. Hall, N. Bettez, Jeannine M Cavender-Bares, P. M. Groffman, M. Grove, J. B. Heffernan, Sarah E Hobbie, J. Learned, J. L. Morse, C. Neill, L. A. Ogden, J. O’Neil-Dunne, D. E. Pataki, C. Polsky, R. Roy Chowdhury, M. Steele, T. L.E. Trammell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Although ecosystem services have been intensively examined in certain domains (e.g., forests and wetlands), little research has assessed ecosystem services for the most dominant landscape type in urban ecosystems—namely, residential yards. In this paper, we report findings of a cross-site survey of homeowners in six U.S. cities to 1) examine how residents subjectively value various ecosystem services, 2) explore distinctive dimensions of those values, and 3) test the urban homogenization hypothesis. This hypothesis posits that urbanization leads to similarities in the social-ecological dynamics across cities in diverse biomes. By extension, the thesis suggests that residents’ ecosystem service priorities for residential landscapes will be similar regardless of whether residents live in the humid East or the arid West, or the warm South or the cold North. Results underscored that cultural services were of utmost importance, particularly anthropocentric values including aesthetics, low-maintenance, and personal enjoyment. Using factor analyses, distinctive dimensions of residents’ values were found to partially align with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’s categories (provisioning, regulating, supporting, and cultural). Finally, residents’ ecosystem service priorities exhibited significant homogenization across regions. In particular, the traditional lawn aesthetic (neat, green, weed-free yards) was similarly important across residents of diverse U.S. cities. Only a few exceptions were found across different environmental and social contexts; for example, cooling effects were more important in the warm South, where residents also valued aesthetics more than those in the North, where low-maintenance yards were a greater priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-113
Number of pages19
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the MacroSystems Biology Program in the Emerging Frontiers Division of the Biological Sciences Directorate at the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grants EF-1065548, 1065737, 1065740, 1065741, 1065772, 1065785, 1065831, 121238320. The work arose from research funded by grants from the NSF Long-Term Ecological Research Program supporting work in Baltimore (DEB-0423476), Phoenix (BCS-1026865), Plum Island (Boston) (OCE-1058747), Cedar Creek (Minneapolis–St Paul) (DEB-0620652), and Florida Coastal Everglades (Miami) (DBI-0620409). This research was also supported by the NSF-funded Decision Center for a Desert City II: Urban Climate Adaptation (SES-0951366). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Ecosystem services
  • Human values
  • Land management
  • Lawns
  • Residential landscapes
  • Urban sustainability


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