Satisfaction, water and fertilizer use in the American residential macrosystem

Peter M. Groffman, J. Morgan Grove, Colin Polsky, Neil D. Bettez, Jennifer L. Morse, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Sharon J. Hall, James B. Heffernan, Sarah E. Hobbie, Kelli L. Larson, Christopher Neill, Kristen Nelson, Laura Ogden, Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne, Diane Pataki, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Dexter H. Locke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Residential yards across the US look remarkably similar despite marked variation in climate and soil, yet the drivers of this homogenization are unknown. Telephone surveys of fertilizer and irrigation use and satisfaction with the natural environment, and measurements of inherent water and nitrogen availability in six US cities (Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, Los Angeles) showed that the percentage of people using irrigation at least once in a year was relatively invariant with little difference between the wettest (Miami, 85%) and driest (Phoenix, 89%) cities. The percentage of people using fertilizer at least once in a year also ranged narrowly (52%-71%), while soil nitrogen supply varied by 10x. Residents expressed similar levels of satisfaction with the natural environment in their neighborhoods. The nature and extent of this satisfaction must be understood if environmental managers hope to effect change in the establishment and maintenance of residential ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number034004
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 29 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to acknowledge the MacroSystems Biology Program, in the Emerging Frontiers Division of the Biological Sciences Directorate at NSF for support. The Ecological Homogenization of Urban America project was supported by a series of collaborative grants from this program (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, DEB- 0423704 and DEB-9714833), Plum Island (Boston) (OCE-1058747 and 1238212), Cedar Creek (Minneapolis- St. Paul) (DEB-0620652) and Florida Coastal Everglades (Miami) (DBI-0620409).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • environmental satisfaction
  • lawns
  • nitrogen
  • residential land use
  • urban ecology
  • water


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