Coupled Human-natural Systems – The UERL Biocomplexity Research Program
Urbanizing ecosystems are emergent phenomena that evolve over time and space as the outcome of dynamic interactions between socio-economic and biophysical processes operating simultaneously over multiple spatial and temporal scales. Individual choices and actions affect ecosystem processes and ecological conditions, which in turn affect human decisions. Understanding the dynamics of urbanizing ecosystems thus requires an integrated framework that simultaneously considers the reciprocal interactions between human and biophysical patterns, processes, and functions. Our research on coupled human-natural systems examines the dynamics of urban ecosystems to test hypotheses about how human-dominated ecosystems evolve through these complex interactions. We have used GIS analysis of remotely sensed data, empirical field measurements, modeling, and and scenario planning to explore the complex dynamics of urban ecosystems.
Biocomplexity I: Modeling the Interactions Among Urban Development, Land Cover Change, and Bird Diversity
Biocomplexity I research focused on addressing questions critical to understanding how complexity emerges from the interactions of multiple agents and processes at the metropolitan scale. How can we better understand and model the complexity of interactions between urban development, land cover change, and biodiversity? How can understand and quantify uncertainty within complex domains? How do public land use and environmental policies interact with this complex domain?
Using the Seattle metropolitan area as our study site, research activities were organized around three major components:
- Microsimulation of the Urban Development Process
- Land Cover Change Model
- Biological Diversity Modeling
Biocomplexity II: Urban Landscape Patterns: Complex Dynamics and Emergent Properties
Expanding upon the Biocomplexity I research, Biocomplexity II projects aim at understanding the types of interactions between human and biophysical forces within urban ecosystems that drive the emergent properties of those systems. How do dynamic landscape systems evolve to generate emergent patterns that we see in urban landscapes? What nonlinearities, thresholds, discontinuities, and path dependencies explain divergent trajectories of urban landscapes? How do emergent urban landscape patterns influence biodiversity and ecosystem functioning? How can planning integrate this knowledge to develop sustainable urban landscape patterns?
Using the Seattle and Phoenix metropolitan area as our study sites, research activities were organized around five major components to address these questions:
- Nitrogen modeling in urbanizing ecosystems
- Climate Variability and Patterns of Residential Water Use in the Seattle Region
- Landscape Signatures
- Pricing of environmental quality
- Urbanization impacts on bird populations
- Functions along an urban-to-rural gradient
Signatures of Socio-Ecological innovation