Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 267–281 | Cite as

Exurban residential subdivision development: Effects on water quality and public perception

  • Joan Iverson Nassauer
  • J. David Allan
  • Thomas Johengen
  • Sandra E. Kosek
  • Dana Infante


We investigated how future alternative designs for exurban residential subdivision development in agricultural landscapes might affect aquatic ecosystems and public perceptions, and we asked whether better aquatic ecological quality would correspond with public perceptions of greater landscape attractiveness. The alternative exurban futures we compared were: ecologically beneficial subdivisions, conventional subdivisions, and conventional agriculture. To judge their aquatic ecology effects we measured the chemistry and biota of six first-order streams within our study area, the Huron and Raisin River watersheds in the Detroit CMSA. We chose two stream catchments that exhibited land cover to represent the same proportions as each of three types of alternative exurban futures. Streams in catchments representing ecologically beneficial subdivision designs had the most total macroinvertebrate taxa, the most sensitive macroinvertebrate taxa, lowest nitrates, lowest total phosphorus, and lowest total suspended materials. Nutrient concentrations were highest in agricultural catchments, and suspended sediments were highest in conventional subdivision catchments. To compare public perceptions of the alternative futures, we surveyed 336 suburban and exurban adult residents of the upper Midwest. All respondents viewed digital imaging simulations of each of the futures and rated their attractiveness as if they were seen from the window of a home in the area. Ecologically beneficial futures were perceived as most attractive. Comparing the alternative futures, rankings of aquatic ecological quality were consistent with public perceptions of attractiveness.

watershed landscape agriculture sprawl web-based survey 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan Iverson Nassauer
    • 1
  • J. David Allan
    • 1
  • Thomas Johengen
    • 1
  • Sandra E. Kosek
    • 1
  • Dana Infante
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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