, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 578-597
Date: 01 Jun 2006

Characterization of Households and its Implications for the Vegetation of Urban Ecosystems

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Our understanding of the dynamics of urban ecosystems can be enhanced by examining the multidimensional social characteristics of households. To this end, we investigated the relative significance of three social theories of household structure—population, lifestyle behavior, and social stratification—to the distribution of vegetation cover in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Our ability to assess the relative significance of these theories depended on fine-scale social and biophysical data. We distinguished among vegetation in three areas hypothesized to be differentially linked to these social theories: riparian areas, private lands, and public rights-of-way (PROWs). Using a multimodel inferential approach, we found that variation of vegetation cover in riparian areas was not explained by any of the three theories and that lifestyle behavior was the best predictor of vegetation cover on private lands. Surprisingly, lifestyle behavior was also the best predictor of vegetation cover in PROWs. The inclusion of a quadratic term for housing age significantly improved the models. Based on these research results, we question the exclusive use of income and education as the standard variables to explain variations in vegetation cover in urban ecological systems. We further suggest that the management of urban vegetation can be improved by developing environmental marketing strategies that address the underlying household motivations for and participation in local land management.