.|  Baltimore Ecosystem Study

 
Linking Decision Making and Science.
 
We have found that there are two parts to linking decision making and science: a) a framework for identifying linkages among decision making, science, and monitoring and assessment and b) understanding the dynamic feedbacks between decision making and science. We note that decision makers are potentially made up of a diverse set of actors, including government agencies, NGOs, community groups, or individual citizens of all ages.
 

Figure 1. Linkages among Decision making, Science, and Monitoring & Assessment. Figure copyright BES LTER and used by permission from Grove.

 
a) Linkages between Decision Making, Science, and Monitoring and Assessment
 
There are several types of linkages between decision making, science, and long term monitoring (Fig.1 ).
 
Decision making and Science (A). There are numerous opportunities for decision making and research to intersect, and these intersections will be either use-inspired basic research or pure applied research. Some examples of activities that are part of this intersection include research to understand the ability of riparian areas, forests, and lawns to take up nitrogen (Groffman et al. 2003), examining the relationship between residential land management and crime (Troy et al. 2012), or studying the relationships among climate change, vector-borne diseases, and public health (LaDeau et al. 2013).
 
Decision making and Monitoring and Assessment (B). Decision makers rely upon a variety of data to monitor and assess the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of their activities. These data on climate, flooding, and air quality (physical), landcover, tree species and tree health (biological), public health, crime, employment, and ownership (social), and the distribution and condition of buildings, roads, and sanitary and stormwater pipes (built).
 
Increasingly, local governments are making their data publicly available. In the case of Baltimore, OpenBaltimore has been developed to provide access to City data in order to support government transparency, openness, and innovative uses that will help improve the lives of Baltimore residents, visitors, and businesses. A goal of OpenBaltimore is to enable local software developer communities to develop applications that will help solve city problems?(http://data.baltimorecity.gov/).
 
Science and Monitoring and Assessment (C). Scientists in BES contribute to long term monitoring and assessments. Like (B), above, these data are associated with each of the human ecosystem complexes. Further, BES data are structured using the scalable data framework described previously. Data are documented with metadata and publicly available (http://www.beslter.org). Because BES collects data at parcel, neighborhood, and county levels, and over the long term, comparisons can be made among these geographies for a specific point in time, or in terms of trends over time.
 
Intersection of A+B+C (D). The intersection of A, B, C occurs in D. Activities in D primarily involve coordinating activities among government agencies, NGOs, BES scientists, and citizens. For instance, BES participates in and helps support a technical committee and workshops that include mid-level mangers from government agencies and NGOs focused on urban sustainability issues such as land management, storm water, and urban agriculture.
 
An important opportunity for decision makers and scientists is that decision makers' policies, plans, and management represent important changes to the social-ecological system. In Baltimore, scientists can help monitor and assess past, current, and future activities. Important lessons can be learned about the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of decisions and the underlying social and ecological dynamics of the region. Thus, coordinating activities in D can be helpful to alert scientists of decision makers' plans and provide scientists and decision makers with time to initiate monitoring activities before the decision makers begin to implement changes in policies, plans, or management. Some examples of the intersection between decision making, science, and monitoring and assessment include research related to and technical assistance with the development of Baltimore City's Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) policies, plans, and management (Galvin et al. 2006, Grove et al. 2006a, Troy et al. 2007, Locke et al. 2013) and with urban watershed reclamation projects, such as W263 (http://www.parksandpeople.org/greening/greening-for-water-quality/watershed-263/). In both cases, BES assists in the monitoring and assessment of the projects' social, economic, and ecological costs and benefits.
 
b) Dynamic Feedbacks between Decision Making and Science
 
BES works to connect scientists and decision makers (Figure 2). The Baltimore region is characterized by ecologically functional watersheds and stream valleys that have contributed to Baltimore's economic and cultural history. An early test of the BES LTER project was to apply and demonstrate the utility of forested, watershed studies from the Coweeta, H. J. Andrews, and Hubbard Brook Experimental Forests / LTERs in the United States (Bormann and Likens 1979) to an urban watershed system. One of the initial questions that BES asked, using a watershed approach, was "do riparian zones, thought to be an important sink for N in many non-urban watersheds, provide a similar function in urban and suburban watersheds?"
 

Figure 2. An abstracted cycle of interaction between research and management. The cycle begins with the separate disciplines of ecology, economics and social sciences interacting with a management or policy concern. In the past, ecology has neglected the urban realm as a subject of study, leaving other disciplines to interpret how ecological understanding would apply to an urban setting. A management or policy action (Actionz) results. Management monitors the results of the action to determine whether the motivating concern was satisfied. Contemporary urban ecology, which integrates with economics and social sciences, is now available to conduct research that recognizes the meshing of natural processes with management and policy actions. Combining this broad, human ecosystem and landscape perspective with the concerns of managers can generate a partnership to enhance the evaluation of management actions. New or alternative management actions can result (Actionsz+1). (Pickett et al. 2007).

 
Somewhat surprisingly, BES analyses found that rather than sinks, riparian areas had the potential to be sources of nitrogen in urban and suburban watersheds. This finding could be explained by the observation that hydrologic changes in urban watersheds, particularly incision of stream channels and reductions in infiltration in uplands due to stormwater infrastructure, led to lower groundwater tables in riparian zones. This "hydrologic drought" created aerobic conditions in urban riparian soils, which decreased denitrification, an anaerobic microbial process that converts reactive nitrogen into nitrogen gases and removes it from the terrestrial system (Groffman et al. 2002, Groffman et al. 2003, Groffman and Crawford 2003).
 
Based upon these results, the Chesapeake Bay Program re-assessed their goals for riparian forest restoration in urban areas (Pickett et al. 2007). Given that riparian zones in deeply incised urban channels were not likely to be functionally important for nitrate attenuation in urban watersheds, the program focused instead on establishing broader urban tree canopy goals for entire urban areas (Fig. 3), with the idea that increases in canopy cover across the city would have important hydrologic and nutrient cycling benefits to the Bay (Raciti et al. 2006).
 

Figure 3. An example of the management-research interaction in Baltimore City watersheds. Traditional ecological information indicated that riparian zones are nitrate sinks. The management concern was to decrease nitrate loading into the Chesapeake Bay. In an effort to achieve that goal, an action of planting trees in riparian zones was proposed. Management monitoring indicated that progress toward decreasing Bay nitrate loadings was slow. Results from BES research suggested that stream channel incision in urban areas has resulted in riparian zones functioning as nitrate sources rather than sinks. In partnership with managers and policy makers in Baltimore City and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a re-evaluation of strategies to mitigate nitrate loading was conducted. This led to a decision to increase tree canopy throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. Baltimore City adopted an Urban Tree Canopy goal, recognizing both the storm water mitigation and other ecological services such canopy would provide. (Pickett et al. 2007).

 
Figure 3. An example of the management-research interaction in Baltimore City watersheds. Traditional ecological information indicated that riparian zones are nitrate sinks. The management concern was to decrease nitrate loading into the Chesapeake Bay. In an effort to achieve that goal, an action of planting trees in riparian zones was proposed. Management monitoring indicated that progress toward decreasing Bay nitrate loadings was slow. Results from BES research suggested that stream channel incision in urban areas has resulted in riparian zones functioning as nitrate sources rather than sinks. In partnership with managers and policy makers in Baltimore City and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a re-evaluation of strategies to mitigate nitrate loading was conducted. This led to a decision to increase tree canopy throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. Baltimore City adopted an Urban Tree Canopy goal, recognizing both the storm water mitigation and other ecological services such canopy would provide. (Pickett et al. 2007).
 
This science-decision making cycle is dynamic and iterative. The Urban Three Canopy (UTC) example has already progressed through four cycles. After the establishment of the Baltimore's UTC goal, analyses of the relationship between property regimes and urban tree canopy found that an "All Lands, All People" approach would be critical for achieving the City of Baltimore's urban tree canopy goal (Actionz+2). Private lands under the control of households are a critical component to achieving any vegetation management goal in the City. Total existing canopy cover is 20 percent, with 90 percent of that cover located on private lands. Likewise, about 85 percent of the unplanted land area where potential planting could occur in the future is on private land, as compared to under 15 percent on public rights of way (Galvin et al. 2006).
 
The importance of residential households to achieving Baltimore's UTC goal led to research addressing the relationships between households, their lifestyle behaviors, and their ecologies (Grove et al. 2006b, Troy et al. 2007, Boone et al. 2009, Zhou et al. 2009). A critical finding from this body of research was that although lifestyle factors such as family size, life stage, and ethnicity may be weakly correlated with socio-economic status, these lifestyle factors play a critical role in determining how households manage the ecological structure and processes of their properties. These findings suggested the need for novel marketing campaigns that differentiated between and promoted UTC efforts to different types of neighborhoods (Actionz+3). The need to "market" to different neighborhoods led to the need to understand existing and potential gaps in stewardship networks (Dalton 2001, Svendsen and Campbell 2008, Romolini and Grove 2010)--both functional and spatial dimensions of the network as a mechanism to communicate and organize local, private stewardship (Actionz+4).
 
Practical benefits from BES are not limited to our site. The findings and methods developed in Baltimore through these successive science-decision making cycles have had widespread utility in other urban areas. For instance, the tools developed in Baltimore to assess and evaluate existing and possible UTC have been disseminated through existing Forest Service networks and applied to more than 70 urban areas in the United States and Canada (http://nrs.fs.fed.us/urban/utc/ ).
 
Literature Cited
 
Boone, C., M. Cadenasso, J. Grove, K. Schwarz, and G. Buckley. 2009. Landscape, vegetation characteristics, and group identity in an urban and suburban watershed: why the 60s matter. Urban Ecosystems 13:255-271.
 
Bormann, F. H. and G. E. Likens. 1979. Pattern and Process in a Forested Ecosystem. Springer-Verlag, New York.
 
Dalton, S. 2001. The Gwynns Falls watershed: a case study of public and non-profit sector behavior in natural resource management. Ph.D. dissertation. The Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore, MD.
 
Galvin, M. F., J. M. Grovem, and J. O'Neil-Dunne. 2006. A report on Baltimore City's present and potential urban tree canopy. Baltimore: Maryland Department of Natural Resources-Forest Service. 17 pp.
 
Groffman, P. M., D. J. Bain, L. E. Band, K. T. Belt, G. S. Brush, J. M. Grove, R. V. Pouyat, I. C. Yesilonis, and W. C. Zipperer. 2003. Down by the riverside: urban riparian ecology. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1:315-321.
 
Groffman, P. M., N. J. Boulware, W. C. Zipperer, R. V. Pouyat, L. E. Band, and M. F. Colosimo. 2002. Soil nitrogen cycle processes in urban riparian zones. Environmental Science & Technology 36:4547-4552.
 
Groffman, P. M. and M. K. Crawford. 2003. Denitrification potential in urban riparian zones. Journal of Environmental Quality 32:1144-1149.
 
Grove, J. M., M. L. Cadenasso, W. R. Burch, S. T. A. Pickett, K. Schwarz, J. O'Neil-Dunne, M. Wilson, A. Troy, and C. Boone. 2006a. Data and methods comparing social structure and vegetation structure of urban neighborhoods in Baltimore, Maryland. Society & Natural Resources 19:117-136.
 
Grove, J. M., A. R. Troy, J. P. M. O'Neil-Dunne, W. R. Burch, M. L. Cadenasso, and S. T. A. Pickett. 2006b. Characterization of households and its implications for the vegetation of urban ecosystems. Ecosystems 9:578-597.
 
LaDeau, S., P. Leisnham, D. Biehler, and D. Bodner. 2013. Higher mosquito production in low-income neighborhoods of Baltimore and Washington, DC: Understanding ecological drivers and mosquito-borne disease risk in temperate cities. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 10:1505-1526.
 
Locke, D. H., J. M. Grove, M. F. Galvin, J. O'Neil-Dunne, and C. Murphy. 2013. Applications of urban tree canopy assessment and prioritization tools: Supporting collaborative decision making to achieve urban sustainability goals. Cites and the Environment (CATE) 6:Article 7, available at: http://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cate/vol6/iss1/7.
 
Pickett, S. T. A., K. T. Belt, M. F. Galvin, P. M. Groffman, J. M. Grove, D. C. Outen, R. V. Pouyat, W. P. Stack, and M. L. Cadenasso. 2007. Watersheds in Baltimore, Maryland: Understanding and application of integrated ecological and social processes. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education 136:44-55.
 
Raciti, S. R., M. F. Galvin, J. M. Grove, J. O'Neil-Dunne, A. Todd, and S. Claggett. 2006. Urban tree canopy goal setting: a guide for Chesapeake Bay communities. USDA Forest Service, Northeastern State & Private Forestry, Chesapeake Bay Program Office., Annapolis, MD.
 
Romolini, M. and M. Grove. 2010. Polycentric networks and resilience in urban systems: A comparison of Baltimore and Seattle. Paper presented at Ecological Society of America 95th Annual Meeting; 3 August 2010, Pittsburgh, PA.
 
Svendsen, E. and L. K. Campbell. 2008. Urban ecological stewardship: understanding the structure, function and network of community-based urban land management. Cities and the Environment (CATE) 1:4. Troy, A., J. Morgan Grove, and J. O'Neil-Dunne. 2012. The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban-rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region. Landscape and Urban Planning 106:262-270.
 
Troy, A. R., J. M. Grove, J. P. M. O'Neil-Dunne, S. T. A. Pickett, and M. L. Cadenasso. 2007. Predicting opportunities for greening and patterns of vegetation on private urban lands. Environmental Management 40:394-412.
 
Zhou, W. Q., A. Troy, J. M. Grove, and J. C. Jenkins. 2009. Can money buy green? Demographic and socioeconomic predictors of lawn care expenditures and lawn greenness in urban residential areas. Society & Natural Resources 22:744-760.