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Ecosystem Service Conservation Meets Smart Growth


In the southwest United States, as with many urban areas around the world today, population growth typically occurs at the metropolitan fringe, where rapid land-use change is altering the ability of ecosystems to deliver goods and services valued by humans. Today’s realities of limited water supplies, climate change, and rapid population growth necessitate new approaches to land-use and conservation planning.  Demand for ecosystem services such as aquifer recharge, soil productivity and outdoor recreation is increasing, while current urban growth patterns diminish these services.

Efforts to conserve ecosystem services often conflict with economic incentives to develop land. Outward “sprawl” of cities is fueled by cheaper land prices and greater availability of land area at the urban fringe, typifying development patterns in many major metropolitan areas. While the economic incentives to developers are relatively clear, an alternative perspective shows an inverse relationship between the costs of public services (e.g. sewerage, roads, police, water) and outward development patterns.

Our lab is developing new tools for land-use planners and conservationists that consider both spatial ecosystem services and public service costs of land development at the urban fringe. Our tools will enable decision-makers to design growth scenarios that conserve ecosystem services while also minimizing the costs of growth. Our study system is the Tucson metropolitan area which is situated in eastern Pima County, a biologically diverse upland desert area. 



photo tucson sprawl

photo of tucson from above
Lab Members Involved

Matt Skroch
E-mail: mskroch@email.arizona.edu

Laura López-Hoffman
E-mail: lauralh@email.arizona.edu




Skroch, M, L Lopez-Hoffman, K Wilson, L Norman, et al.  Ecosystem Service Conservation meets Smart Growth:  An Integrated Way of Meeting Multiple Objectives at the Urban Fringe.  In preparation.  Intended for Ecology and Society.


Research Partners

Kerrie Wilson

Laura Norman

Related Links

Wilson Conservation Ecology Lab

Pima County’s Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

Coalition for Sonoran Desert Conservation

Smart Growth

Ecosystem Services and the Millennium Assessment




phone (520) 626-9868 | e-mail lauralh@email.arizona.edu

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