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Homeowner Associations as a Vehicle for Promoting Native Urban Biodiversity

Susannah B Lerman, The Graduate Program in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, University of Massachusetts
Victoria Kelly Turner, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University
Christofer Bang, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05175-170445

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Abstract

The loss of habitat due to suburban and urban development represents one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Conservation developments have emerged as a key player for reconciling new ex-urban residential development with ecosystem services. However, as more than half of the world population lives in urban and suburban developments, identifying conservation partners to facilitate retrofitting existing residential neighborhoods becomes paramount. Homeowner associations (HOA) manage a significant proportion of residential developments in the United States, which includes the landscape design for yards and gardens. These areas have the potential to mitigate the loss of urban biodiversity when they provide habitat for native wildlife. Therefore, the conditions and restrictions imposed upon the homeowner by the HOA could have profound effects on the local wildlife habitat. We explored the potential of HOAs to promote conservation by synthesizing research from three monitoring programs from Phoenix, Arizona. We compared native bird diversity, arthropod diversity, and plant diversity between neighborhoods with and without a HOA. Neighborhoods belonging to HOAs had significantly greater bird and plant diversity, although insect diversity did not differ. The institutional framework structuring HOAs, including sanctions for enforcement coupled with a predictable maintenance regime that introduces regular disturbance, might explain why neighborhoods with a HOA had greater bird diversity. For neighborhoods with a HOA, we analyzed landscape form and management practices. We linked these features with ecological function and suggested how to modify management practices by adopting strategies from the Sustainable Sites Initiative, an international sustainable landscaping program, to help support biodiversity in current and future residential landscapes.

Key words

CAP LTER; conservation development; homeowner associations; residential landscapes; Sustainable Sites Initiative; urban biodiversity
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087