Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2008 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Beyond Imperviousness
Schwartz, Stu
Co-Authors: Stu Schwartz
Abstract: Sustaining ecosystem services in urbanizing watersheds requires science-based policy integrating natural, engineered, and human systems. The emerging understanding of causal mechanisms and feedbacks that link landscape form with the function and response of urban stream ecosystems currently lags the policy needs for decision making; yet the policy-relevant science that presently informs decision-making also lags our current scientific understanding. Inventive policy and regulatory instruments to limit, tax, or offset impervious areas draw on empirical associations between stream degradation and increased impervious area, consistently observed across urban landscape gradients. Despite its empirical reliability as an indicator of anthropogenic stressors, percent imperviousness remains too blunt an instrument to either protect ecosystem services or guide sustainable urban design. The growing demand for science-based information to support sustainable urban systems is manifested in systematic interdisciplinary research initiatives emerging in sustainable landscape design, environmental site design, and integrated management of the full rainfall spectrum in urban hydrology. The design, management, and restoration of sustainable urban landscapes will be best informed by an urban river science that goes “beyond imperviousness”.