Urban Land Stewardship

This working group focuses on the sociocultural, political, economic, physical and ecological aspects and benefits of an urban tree canopy, and the replacement of native biodiversity by exotic species. Globalization and climate change are expected to exert an increasing influence on these processes. Exotic species invasions epitomize the concept of ecological globalization. Differences in socio-economic status, housing tenure, and culture result in an uneven distribution of residential tree canopies, exacerbating urban heat islands (Akbari 2002). Native biota face the double exposure of a changing environment and development pressures. We are using an urban political ecology approach to document the relation among demographic variables and tree canopy to examine the legacy impacts of urban forest inequity (Heynen et al. 2006). Urban trees, which offer myriad positive externalities (e.g. mitigating the effect of the urban heat island), are unevenly distributed socially and spatially, especially so in Miami-Dade County. As a burgeoning global city, the Miami urban region is still in the process of defining itself, its borders and its relationships with the extensive network of embedded natural areas (pine forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, wetlands) that it has been fortunate to retain inside the metropolitan matrix. However, spending on management has not kept pace with conservation land acquisition. Maintaining populations in these forests has been made difficult by the invasion of exotic plants and animals, illegal dumping and reduction in the historical frequency of disturbance, especially fire (Possley et al. 2008). We are expanding the ecological focus of studies of urban forest inequity to include the role of endangered forest remnants in the broader fabric of the Miami-Dade tree canopy, considering how stewardship activities, acquisition strategies and educational efforts can be directed at improving the social and ecosystem services in the city. This working group is also examining resilience as related to the Miami ecosystem, specifically under the impacts of double exposure to globalization and climate change, especially sea-level rise. The issue of the impact of catastrophic storms on forest canopy takes on particular complexity when coupled with the patchiness of the urban landscape, which includes subtropical and introduced tropical tree species in an urban setting (Crumpacker et al., 2001a, 2001b, Duryea et al. 2007a, 2007b, USDA 2008a, 2008b).