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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 16, 2024
  2. null (Ed.)
    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. 
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  3. Abstract

    Milldams and their legacies have significantly influenced fluvial processes and geomorphology. However, less is known about their effects on riparian zone hydrology, biogeochemistry, and water quality. Here, we discuss the potential effects of existing and breached milldams on riparian nitrogen (N) processing through multiple competing hypotheses and observations from complementary studies. Competing hypotheses characterize riparian zone processes that remove (sink) or release (source) N. Elevated groundwater levels and reducing soil conditions upstream of milldams suggest that riparian zones above dams could be hotspots for N removal via denitrification and plant N uptake. On the other hand, dam removals and subsequent drops in stream and riparian groundwater levels result in drained, oxic soils which could increase soil nitrification and decrease riparian plant uptake due to groundwater bypassing the root zone. Whether dam removals would result in a net increase or decrease of N in riparian groundwaters is unknown and needs to be investigated. While nitrification, denitrification, and plant N uptake have typically received the most attention in riparian studies, other N cycle processes such as dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA) need to be considered. We also propose a novel concept of riparian discontinuum, which highlights the hydrologic and biogeochemical discontinuities introduced in riparian zones by anthropogenic structures such as milldams. Understanding and quantifying how milldams and similar structures influence the net source or sink behavior of riparian zones is urgently needed for guiding watershed management practices and for informed decision making with regard to dam removals.

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  4. Urbanization has a homogenizing effect on biodiversity and leads to communities with fewer native species and lower conservation value. However, few studies have explored whether or how land management by urban residents can ameliorate the deleterious effects of this homogenization on species composition. We tested the effects of local (land management) and neighborhood-scale (impervious surface and tree canopy cover) features on breeding bird diversity in six US metropolitan areas that differ in regional species pools and climate. We used a Bayesian multiregion community model to assess differences in species richness, functional guild richness, community turnover, population vulnerability, and public interest in each bird community in six land management types: two natural area park types (separate and adjacent to residential areas), two yard types with conservation features (wildlife-certified and water conservation) and two lawn-dominated yard types (high- and low-fertilizer application), and surrounding neighborhood-scale features. Species richness was higher in yards compared with parks; however, parks supported communities with high conservation scores while yards supported species of high public interest. Bird communities in all land management types were composed of primarily native species. Within yard types, species richness was strongly and positively associated with neighborhood-scale tree canopy cover and negatively associated with impervious surface. At a continental scale, community turnover between cities was lowest in yards and highest in parks. Within cities, however, turnover was lowest in high-fertilizer yards and highest in wildlife-certified yards and parks. Our results demonstrate that, across regions, preserving natural areas, minimizing impervious surfaces and increasing tree canopy are essential strategies to conserve regionally important species. However, yards, especially those managed for wildlife support diverse, heterogeneous bird communities with high public interest and potential to support species of conservation concern. Management approaches that include the preservation of protected parks, encourage wildlife-friendly yards and acknowledge how public interest in local birds can advance successful conservation in American residential landscapes. 
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  5. Abstract

    Despite interest in the contribution of evapotranspiration (ET) of residential turfgrass lawns to household and municipal water budgets across the United States, the spatial and temporal variability of residential lawn ET across large scales is highly uncertain. We measured instantaneous ET (ETinst) of lawns in 79 residential yards in six metropolitan areas: Baltimore, Boston, Miami, Minneapolis‐St. Paul (mesic climates), Los Angeles and Phoenix (arid climates). Each yard had one of four landscape types and management practices: traditional lawn‐dominated yards with high or low fertilizer input, yards with water‐conserving features, and yards with wildlife‐friendly features. We measured ETinstin situ during the growing season using portable chambers and identified environmental and anthropogenic factors controlling ET in residential lawns. For each household, we used ETinstto estimate daily ET of the lawn (ETdaily) and multiplied ETdailyby the lawn area to estimate the total volume of water lost through ET of the lawn (ETvol). ETdailyvaried from 0.9 ± 0.4 mm d1in mesic cities to 2.9 ± 0.7 mm d−1in arid cities. Neither ETinstnor ETdailywas significantly influenced by yard landscape types and ETinstpatterns indicated that lawns may be largely decoupled from regional rain‐driven climate patterns. ETvolranged from ∼0 L d−1to over 2,000 L d−1, proportionally increasing with lawn area. Current irrigation and lawn management practices did not necessarily result in different ETinstor ETdailyamong traditional, water‐conserving, or wildlife‐friendly yards, but smaller lawn areas in water‐conserving and wildlife‐friendly yards resulted in lower ETvol.

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  6. The arboreal ecosystem is vitally important to global and local biogeochemical processes, the maintenance of biodiversity in natural systems, and human health in urban environments. The ability to collect samples, observations, and data to conduct meaningful scientific research is similarly vital. The primary methods and modes of access remain limited and difficult. In an online survey, canopy researchers ( n = 219) reported a range of challenges in obtaining adequate samples, including ∼10% who found it impossible to procure what they needed. Currently, these samples are collected using a combination of four primary methods: (1) sampling from the ground; (2) tree climbing; (3) constructing fixed infrastructure; and (4) using mobile aerial platforms, primarily rotorcraft drones. An important distinction between instantaneous and continuous sampling was identified, allowing more targeted engineering and development strategies. The combination of methods for sampling the arboreal ecosystem provides a range of possibilities and opportunities, particularly in the context of the rapid development of robotics and other engineering advances. In this study, we aim to identify the strategies that would provide the benefits to a broad range of scientists, arborists, and professional climbers and facilitate basic discovery and applied management. Priorities for advancing these efforts are (1) to expand participation, both geographically and professionally; (2) to define 2–3 common needs across the community; (3) to form and motivate focal teams of biologists, tree professionals, and engineers in the development of solutions to these needs; and (4) to establish multidisciplinary communication platforms to share information about innovations and opportunities for studying arboreal ecosystems. 
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  7. Abstract

    The compounding effects of anthropogenic legacies for environmental pollution are significant, but not well understood. Here, we show that centennial‐scale legacies of milldams and decadal‐scale legacies of road salt salinization interact in unexpected ways to produce hot spots of nitrogen (N) in riparian zones. Riparian groundwater and stream water concentrations upstream of two mid‐Atlantic (Pennsylvania and Delaware) milldams, 2.4 and 4 m tall, were sampled over a 2 year period. Clay and silt‐rich legacy sediments with low hydraulic conductivity, stagnant and poorly mixed hydrologic conditions, and persistent hypoxia in riparian sediments upstream of milldams produced a unique biogeochemical gradient with nitrate removal via denitrification at the upland riparian edge and ammonium‐N accumulation in near‐stream sediments and groundwaters. Riparian groundwater ammonium‐N concentrations upstream of the milldams ranged from 0.006 to 30.6 mgN L−1while soil‐bound values were 0.11–456 mg kg−1. We attribute the elevated ammonium concentrations to ammonification with suppression of nitrification and/or dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium (DNRA). Sodium inputs to riparian groundwater (25–1,504 mg L−1) from road salts may further enhance DNRA and ammonium production and displace sorbed soil ammonium‐N into groundwaters. This study suggests that legacies of milldams and road salts may undercut the N buffering capacity of riparian zones and need to be considered in riparian buffer assessments, watershed management plans, and dam removal decisions. Given the widespread existence of dams and other barriers and the ubiquitous use of road salt, the potential for this synergistic N pollution is significant.

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  8. Abstract

    The conversion of native ecosystems to residential ecosystems dominated by lawns has been a prevailing land‐use change in the United States over the past 70 years. Similar development patterns and management of residential ecosystems cause many characteristics of residential ecosystems to be more similar to each other across broad continental gradients than that of former native ecosystems. For instance, similar lawn management by irrigation and fertilizer applications has the potential to influence soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) pools and processes. We evaluated the mean and variability of total soil C and N stocks, potential net N mineralization and nitrification, soil nitrite (NO2)/nitrate (NO3) and ammonium (NH4+) pools, microbial biomass C and N content, microbial respiration, bulk density, soil pH, and moisture content in residential lawns and native ecosystems in six metropolitan areas across a broad climatic gradient in the United States: Baltimore, MD (BAL); Boston, MA (BOS); Los Angeles, CA (LAX); Miami, FL (MIA); Minneapolis–St. Paul, MN (MSP); and Phoenix, AZ (PHX). We observed evidence of higher N cycling in lawn soils, including significant increases in soil NO2/NO3, microbial N pools, and potential net nitrification, and significant decreases in NH4+pools. Self‐reported yard fertilizer application in the previous year was linked with increased NO2/ NO3content and decreases in total soil N and C content. Self‐reported irrigation in the previous year was associated with decreases in potential net mineralization and potential net nitrification and with increases in bulk density and pH. Residential topsoil had higher total soil C than native topsoil, and microbial biomass C was markedly higher in residential topsoil in the two driest cities (LAX and PHX). Coefficients of variation for most biogeochemical metrics were higher in native soils than in residential soils across all cities, suggesting that residential development homogenizes soil properties and processes at the continental scale.

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