Emerging studies of coupled human-natural systems reveal new and complex patterns and processes not evident when studied by social or natural scientists separately (Liu et al. 2007). The implications of this research on coupled human-natural systems are significant for land use planning. Strategic decisions about investing in infrastructures or adopting control policies (e.g. growth management) can either mitigate or exacerbate impacts from urbanization—our work in the UERL is providing the scientific information required to make ecologically sensitive land-use planning and management decisions in urbanizing regions, and we are starting to empirically characterize the underlying processes and mechanisms linking urbanization patterns and ecosystem function.