Indiana University BloomingtonIU Bloomington
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a research center of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Indiana University Bloomington

Portfolio for Sarah K. Mincey, Ph.D.

SPEA Faculty Profile

School / Program:
School of Public and Environmental Affairs - Environmental Science
Research Areas:
Urban ecology and urban forest management; Forest ecology and management; Natural resource management; Social-ecological system resilience and robustness; GIS and Remote Sensing
Dissertation Title:
The Role of Collective Action and Institutions in Sustainable Urban Forest Management
Dissertation Committee:
  • Burney Fischer, Chair (SPEA)
  • Michael Cox (Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College)
  • Tom Evans (Geography)
  • J.C. Randolph (SPEA)
  • Catherine Tucker (Anthropology)

Current Dissertation Progress and Expected Defense Date:
Completed and successfully defended: December 2012

Dissertation Description:

My dissertation portfolio addresses the question: How do institutions and collective action facilitate sustainable urban forest management (UFM)? The research utilizes mixed methods to address this question through case studies in Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.

First, the need for institutional analysis in urban ecosystem research is established by arguing that decline of urban forests is related to lack of UFM investment (e.g., free-riding) due to the non-excludable nature of the resource. Such dilemmas are resolved through institutions that adjust individuals’ incentives to invest in collective good. The Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Framework, a precursor to the Social-Ecological System (SES) framework, is demonstrated for examining the role of institutions in UFM.

Secondly, we consider the influence of municipal zoning institutions on canopy cover in Bloomington, finding that high-density residential zones are more like commercial zones than other residential zones in terms of canopy, and that mixed-use zoning is associated with intermediate canopy cover. This refines widely-held theory that residential lands have the most canopy cover and implies that canopy is driven in part by institutions that regulate impervious cover, suggesting bureaucrats consider fine-scale zoning distribution in UFM.

Next, we consider collective action and institutions in the survival and growth of planted trees and community cohesion in Indianapolis. We find trees in neighborhoods that collectively water are more likely to survive than those in neighborhoods that assign watering of individual trees to individual residents. Subsequent collective action is more likely in neighborhoods that collectively water, and institutions such as signed watering agreements and monitoring of watering improve tree establishment. This supports the application of collective action theory and institutional design principles to UFM.

Finally, we model parcel-scale tree structure in Bloomington home-owner and neighborhood associations, finding significant differences in parcels by association type and development age, and demonstrating the significant influence of institutions on tree species diversity. This research utilizes the SES framework, extending its use to urban forests, and reinforces the significance of institutional analysis in urban ecosystems research. Practically, the research suggests that community association rules play an important role in structuring parcel-scale urban forests.

    Sarah Mincey