Land Use Institutions, Land Use Land Cover Change, and the Distribution of Ecosystem Services

Zoning, building codes, subdivision ordinances, and neighborhood association rules are the most pervasive institutions affecting land use in the USA, yet their impact on land use change and ecosystem services and the distribution of these environmental goods and “bads” is highly variable and not well understood[1]. The purpose of this working group is to coordinate ongoing research on land use institutions within the LTER network to enable cross-site comparison and development of a better empirical and theoretical understanding of the interrelationships amongst land use institutions, land use change, and ecosystem services. A core group of interested participants representing BES, FCE, CAP, and PIE began coordination of comparative land use institutions research at a workshop at Arizona State University in the fall 2011 (Table 1). We will expand the working group to other interested LTER scientists through a workshop at the ASM.  Using a multi-scale analysis at the parcel, neighborhood, and local government levels, we will assess land use institution changes at selected sites using a framework of sustainability and environmental justice.  We will address three primary questions: 1) Policy change-How has the rationale of zoning and planning changed over time for each of the sites?  How have sustainability and other social-ecological concerns been incorporated? 2) Institutional change and land use change-How does the implementation of land use institutions evolve and impact LUCC and ecosystem services over time?  What social and ecological factors affect the patterns observed? 3) Environmental goods and bads-Do frequent instances of rezoning/variances produce significant environmental disamenities (loss of canopy cover, urban heat island, higher energy and water use, location of hazards)? Do neighborhoods with less rezoning/fewer variances experience environmental amenities? Do local land use institutions favor certain demographics, i.e. high-income white communities?

Principal Investigator: 
Abigail York
Competition Date: 
2011, December
Award Date: 
2012, January
Award Year: 
Award Amount: 
Number of Participants: