Assessing the homogenization of urban land management with an application to US residential lawn care

Colin Polsky, J. Morgan Grove, Chris Knudson, Peter M. Groffman, Neil Bettez, Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Sharon Hall, James B. Heffernan, Sarah E. Hobbie, Kelli Larson, Jennifer L. Morse, Christopher Neill, Kristen C. Nelson, Laura A. Ogden, Jarlath O'Neil-Dunne, Diane E. Pataki, Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Meredith K. Steele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Changes in land use, land cover, and land management present some of the greatest potential global environmental challenges of the 21st century. Urbanization, one of the principal drivers of these transformations, is commonly thought to be generating land changes that are increasingly similar. An implication of this multiscale homogenization hypothesis is that the ecosystem structure and function and human behaviors associated with urbanization should be more similar in certain kinds of urbanized locations across biogeophysical gradients than across urbanization gradients in places with similar biogeophysical characteristics. This paper introduces an analytical framework for testing this hypothesis, and applies the framework to the case of residential lawn care. This set of land management behaviors are often assumed - not demonstrated - to exhibit homogeneity. Multivariate analyses are conducted on telephone survey responses from a geographically stratified random sample of homeowners ( n = 9,480), equally distributed across six US metropolitan areas. Two behaviors are examined: lawn fertilizing and irrigating. Limited support for strong homogenization is found at two scales (i.e., multi- and single-city; 2 of 36 cases), but significant support is found for homogenization at only one scale (22 cases) or at neither scale (12 cases). These results suggest that US lawn care behaviors are more differentiated in practice than in theory. Thus, even if the biophysical outcomes of urbanization are homogenizing, managing the associated sustainability implications may require a multiscale, differentiated approach because the underlying social practices appear relatively varied. The analytical approach introduced here should also be productive for other facets of urban-ecological homogenization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4432-4437
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 25 2014


  • Land-change science
  • Private land management
  • Sustainability science
  • Urban ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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