Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2011 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Volunteer urban environmental stewardship: an effective way to manage plant communities in city parks
Johnson, Anna
Co-Authors: Anna L. Johnson, Daniel J. Bain, Erin M. Copeland, and Christopher M. Swan

Abstract: Background/Questions/Methods: Many cities rely on programs that recruit and train volunteer citizens to perform environmental stewardship work. The extent to which these programs are ecologically successful, however, is rarely assessed. The Urban EcoStewards program is an initiative of a group of Pittsburgh, PA nonprofits, coordinated by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, with the goal of "building sustainable urban ecosystems through citizen stewardship." The objective of this project was to assess the success of the Urban EcoStewards program in encouraging diverse, native communities of plants in Pittsburgh's urban parks. Volunteer-reported data were analyzed for trends in invasive species presence/absence with management duration and plant functional traits. Additional plant community surveys were performed in a subset of EcoSteward plots during the summer of 2010. This data was used to answer the following questions: Does volunteer stewardship of portions of urban parkland in Pittsburgh, PA: (1) reduce the prevalence of invasive plant species?, (2) increase native plant species diversity? And (3) is small-scale invasive species removal more successful for some species than for others? Results/Conclusions: The Urban EcoStewards program significantly reduces the prevalence of invasive plant species in managed plots. The average number of reported invasive species in plots decreased significantly after one year of EcoSteward management. No additional change was seen with additional years of management. Resurveys of a subset of plots showed an increasing trend, however, in native species diversity in plots with additional years of management. These findings suggest that there is substantial potential to improve urban ecosystems through volunteer stewardship.