Residential landscapes as social-ecological systems: A synthesis of multi-scalar interactions between people and their home environment

Elizabeth M. Cook, Sharon Hall, Kelli Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

316 Scopus citations


Residential landscapes are a common setting of human-environment interactions. These ubiquitous ecosystems provide social and ecological services, and yard maintenance leads to intended and unintended ecological outcomes. The ecological characteristics of residential landscapes and the human drivers of landscape management have been the focus of disciplinary studies, often at a single scale of analysis. However, an interdisciplinary examination of residential landscapes is needed to understand the feedbacks and tradeoffs of these complex adaptive social-ecological systems as a whole. Our aim is to synthesize the diversity of perspectives, scales of analysis, and findings from the literature in order to 1) contribute to an interdisciplinary understanding of residential landscapes and 2) identify research needs while providing a robust conceptual approach for future studies. We synthesize 256 studies from the literature and develop an interdisciplinary, multi-scalar framework on residential landscape dynamics. Complex human drivers (attitudinal, structural, and institutional factors) at multiple scales influence management practices and the feedbacks with biophysical characteristics of residential landscapes. However, gaps exist in our interdisciplinary understanding of residential landscapes within four key but understudied areas: 1) the link between social drivers and ecological outcomes of management decisions, 2) the ecosystem services provided by these landscapes to residents, 3) the interactions of social drivers and ecological characteristics across scales, and 4) generalizations of patterns and processes across cities. Our systems perspective will help to guide future interdisciplinary collaborations to integrate theories and research methods across geographic locations and spatial scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-52
Number of pages34
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Lawn
  • Residential landscapes
  • Scale
  • Social-ecological systems
  • Urban
  • Yard management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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