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  1. Urban forests provide ecosystem services important for regulating climate, conserving biodiversity, and maintaining human well‐being. However, these forests vary in composition and physiological traits due to their unique biophysical and social contexts. This variation complicates assessing the functions and services of different urban forests. To compare the characteristics of the urban forest, we sampled the species composition and two externally sourced traits (drought tolerance and water‐use capacity) of tree and shrub species in residential yards, unmanaged areas, and natural reference ecosystems within six cities across the contiguous US. As compared to natural and unmanaged forests, residential yards had markedly higher tree and shrub species richness, were composed primarily of introduced species, and had more species with low drought tolerance. The divergence between natural and human‐managed areas was most dramatic in arid climates. Our findings suggest that the answer to the question of “what is an urban forest” strongly depends on where you look within and between cities.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 19, 2025
  2. Introduction

    Human-wildlife coexistence in cities depends on how residents perceive and interact with wildlife in their neighborhoods. An individual’s attitudes toward and responses to wildlife are primarily shaped by their subjective cognitive judgments, including multi-faceted environmental values and perceptions of risks or safety. However, experiences with wildlife could also positively or negatively affect an individual’s environmental attitudes, including their comfort living near wildlife. Previous work on human-wildlife coexistence has commonly focused on rural environments and on conflicts with individual problem species, while positive interactions with diverse wildlife communities have been understudied.


    Given this research gap, we surveyed wildlife attitudes of residents across twelve neighborhoods in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, AZ to ask: how do the environments in which residents live, as well as their values, identities, and personal characteristics, explain the degree to which they are comfortable living near different wildlife groups (coyotes, foxes, and rabbits)?


    We found that residents who were more comfortable living near wildlife commonly held pro-wildlife value orientations, reflecting the expectation that attitudes toward wildlife are primarily driven be an individual’s value-based judgements. However, attitudes were further influenced by sociodemographic factors (e.g., pet ownership, gender identity), as well as environmental factors that influence the presence of and familiarity with wildlife. Specifically, residents living closer to desert parks and preserves were more likely to have positive attitudes toward both coyotes and foxes, species generally regarded by residents as riskier to humans and domestic animals.


    By improving understanding of people’s attitudes toward urban wildlife, these results can help managers effectively evaluate the potential for human-wildlife coexistence through strategies to mitigate risk and facilitate stewardship.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 2, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2024
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 16, 2024
  5. Introduction Integrated social and ecological processes shape urban plant communities, but the temporal dynamics and potential for change in these managed communities have rarely been explored. In residential yards, which cover about 40% of urban land area, individuals make decisions that control vegetation outcomes. These decisions may lead to relatively static plant composition and structure, as residents seek to expend little effort to maintain stable landscapes. Alternatively, residents may actively modify plant communities to meet their preferences or address perceived problems, or they may passively allow them to change. In this research, we ask, how and to what extent does residential yard vegetation change over time? Methods We conducted co-located ecological surveys of yards (in 2008, 2018, and 2019) and social surveys of residents (in 2018) in four diverse neighborhoods of Phoenix, Arizona. Results 94% of residents had made some changes to their front or back yards since moving in. On average, about 60% of woody vegetation per yard changed between 2008 and 2018, though the number of species present did not differ significantly. In comparison, about 30% of woody vegetation changed in native Sonoran Desert reference areas over 10 years. In yards, about 15% of woody vegetation changed on average in a single year, with up to 90% change in some yards. Greater turnover was observed for homes that were sold, indicating a “pulse” of management. Additionally, we observed greater vegetation turnover in the two older, lawn-dominated neighborhoods surveyed despite differences in neighborhood socioeconomic factors. Discussion These results indicate that residential plant communities are dynamic over time. Neighborhood age and other characteristics may be important drivers of change, while socioeconomic status neither promotes nor inhibits change at the neighborhood scale. Our findings highlight an opportunity for management interventions, wherein residents may be open to making conservation-friendly changes if they are already altering the composition of their yards. 
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  6. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  7. Mosquitoes and the pathogens they carry are increasingly common in urban areas throughout the globe. With urban landscapes, the need to manage mosquitoes is driven by the health risks and nuisance complaints associated with mosquitoes. Controlling the number of mosquitoes may reduce the overall risk of disease transmission but may not reduce nuisance complaints. This study focuses on Maricopa County in Arizona, USA, to investigate the relationship between mosquito abundance and landscape-level and sociodemographic factors on resident perceptions of mosquitoes. We used boosted regression trees to compare how mosquito abundance, collected from Maricopa Vector Control, and landscape factors and social factors, assessed through the Phoenix Area Social Survey, influence survey respondents’ reporting of mosquitoes as a problem. Results show that the landscape and sociodemographic features play a prominent role in how individuals perceive mosquitoes as a problem; specifically, respondents’ perception of their local landscape as messy and the distance to landscape features such as wetlands have more substantial roles in shaping perceptions. This work can highlight how potential mosquito and non-mosquito-related communications and management efforts may improve residents’ satisfaction with mosquito control or other wildlife management efforts, which can help inform best practices for vector control agencies. 
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