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  1. 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 averagemore »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.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 15, 2023
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  5. 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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    Despite the social and ecological importance of residential spaces across the country, scant research examines urban yard management policies in the U.S. Governance scholarship points to the implementation challenges of navigating policy language. Our research provides an exploration of yard ordinance language, with implications for communities across the U.S. Specifically, we sought to determine whether—and in what instances—vegetation- and groundcover-related yard ordinances in the U.S. are ambiguous or clear. Our findings suggest that ordinances are often ambiguous when referring to the state or quality of the constituent parts that make up the residential yard (e.g., “neat” or “orderly”). Yet they are clear when providing guidance about what plant species are or are not allowed, or when articulating specific requirements regarding the size or dimensions of impervious surfaces and plants. We discuss the policy implications of these findings, especially in the context of how such policies may invite the subjective judgment by enforcers, leaving open the potential for discriminatory enforcement, especially with regard to marginalized communities where different cultural values and esthetics may be expressed in yards.