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a research center of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Indiana University Bloomington
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The Influence of Institutional Dynamics on Urban Tree Management in Bloomington, Indiana

Research Goals and Objectives  

Urban forests provide essential ecosystem services to a growing proportion of the world’s human population. The ability of urban forests to provide ecosystem services has been measured by scientists focusing on the management of urban ecological resources within the urban social ecological system. Resource management is, of course, undertaken by people whose management decisions are influenced by a suite of factors including institutions (policies and norms). Thus, to understand the current state of urban forests and their relationship to resource management decisions, effective research must combine analyses of biophysical, social, and institutional data.

This study attempts to answer three key questions, currently unknown within urban forest literature:

  1. What is the structure of the privately-owned portion of the urban forest?
  2. What factors motivate individual households to manage their urban trees?
  3. What role do neighborhood and home-owner associations play in incentivizing sustainable management of private urban forests? 

By surveying single-family households across multiple neighborhood and home-owner associations in Bloomington, Indiana, and inventorying these properties’ trees, this study links outcomes on the landscape with the context and motivations of private property owners.

Bloomington area study map

The objective of the biophysical data collection is to evaluate urban forest structure and function within sampled neighborhoods. We assume that forest quality is directly related to the quantity and diversity of trees by size, age, and species distributions (i.e. high quality urban forests—those that provide the most ecosystem services—have lots of trees, in good condition, with diverse species and ages). 

The objective of the household survey data collection is to evaluate the motivations of private homeowners in the context of the norms and policies of their neighborhood associations and the City of Bloomington. Institutional analyses of the City and the sampled associations allow researchers to understand how variation in institutional strength may influence household decisions about tree management.

Figure 1. Influences on household urban tree management.

Figure 1. Influences on household urban tree management.

Results

Some results of the biophysical data analysis were presented at the Indiana Urban Forest Council’s Winter Meeting (2/7/2012).

Future Analysis

Analysis of household survey data, soil carbons analysis, and institutional analysis will soon be available here. Check back soon for updates.

Informative Links for Landowners

Invasive Species

Funding and Support

  • Indiana University Office of Sustainability (PI: Fischer; 2011: $15,000)
  • Garden Club of America Urban Forestry Fellowship (awarded to Sarah Mincey in 2010)
  • Indiana University Center for Research in Environmental Science (PIs: Evans and Fischer; 2009-2011: $18,700)

Press

  • IU News Room press release from 2012 ESA Meeting presentation: “Ecological Society of America annual meeting draws more than 30 IU scientists as presenters,” August 6, 2012.
  • IU News Room press release: “IU researchers studying urban forests in Bloomington backyards,” Summer 2011.

Publications

Mincey, S.K., M. Hutten, B.C. Fischer, T.P. Evans, S.I. Stewart, and J.M. Vogt. 2013. Structuring Institutional Analysis for Urban Ecosystems: A Key to Sustainable Urban Forest ManagementUrban Ecosystems 16(3):553–571.

Schmitt-Harsh, M., S.K. Mincey, M. Patterson, B.C. Fischer, & T.P. Evans. 2013. Private residential urban forest structure and carbon storage in a moderate-sized urban area in the Midwest, United States. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, in press. 

Conference Proceedings

Mincey, S.K., M. Schmitt-Harsh, M.S. Patterson, R. Thurau, T. Evans, & B.C. Fischer. 2012. The relative influence of homeowner attitudes and social institutions on residential urban forest structure. International Society of Arboriculture 2012 Annual International Conference and Trade Show, August 11-15, 2012, Portland, OR. (Poster Presentation and Conference Proceedings)

Mincey, S.K., M. Schmitt-Harsh, M. Patterson, B.C. Fischer, & T. Evans. Analysis of private residential urban forest structure and management in Bloomington, Indiana: A social-ecological systems (SES) perspective.  Life on Earth: Preserving, Utilizing and Sustaining our Ecosystems: 97th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, August 5-10, 2012, Portland, OR. (Oral Presentation and Conference Proceedings)

Schmitt-Harsh, M., S.K. Mincey, M. Patterson, T. Evans, & B.C. Fischer. Carbon storage and ecosystem services of urban trees in Bloomington, IN as a function of development age. Life on Earth: Preserving, Utilizing and Sustaining our Ecosystems: 97th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, August 5-10, 2012, Portland, OR. (Oral Presentation and Conference Proceedings)

Mincey, S.K., M. Schmitt-Harsh, M. Patterson, B.C. Fischer, & T. Evans. 2012. Analysis of private urban forest management in Bloomington, Indiana: A social-ecological systems (SES) perspective. Disturbed Environments - Ecological Impact & Management: Mid-Atlantic Chapter, Ecological Society of America, Annual Meeting, April 14-15, 2012, Blacksburg, VA. (Presentation)

Truck loaded with branches
Measuring location with a GPS
Arden Place Neighborhood Association
Tree work in Arden Place