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Northern Research Station
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726
(608) 231-9318
(608) 231-9544 TTY/TDD

Urban Natural Resources Stewardship

Land Use and Land Cover Change and Loss of Open Space

The public sector in the United States has responded to growing concern about the social and environmental costs of sprawling development patterns by creating a wide range of policy instruments designed to manage urban growth and protect open space. At the Northern Research Station, our scientists work to measure the demographics of land use change and understand what such changes mean to urban, suburban, and rural residents. Our scientists work with local and regional governments to develop responses to these changes and to inform movements for preservation of open space.

Selected Research Studies

[photo:] Bee on lawn flowerBee Abundance and Diversity in Suburban Yards
Lawn maintenance often results in a simplistic vegetation configuration that is dismissed as “sterile environments for biodiversity.” But could less rigorous lawn mowing make a difference to biodiversity in a suburban or urban setting?


[photo:] Commuter ferry, Lopez Island, WA. Photo Credit:  Eileen S. Burns, Milliman, Inc.Feedbacks through the Land Market Affect Success of Open Space Conservation Policy
Guidance is needed to help organizations prioritize areas for open space conservation where development pressure is high and land conservation can have unintended consequences of increasing land price, promoting development, and limiting future conservation options. 


[photo:] California myotis (Myotis californicus) Photo Credit:  Norman Barrett, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, Habitat for Bats in the Face of Development Pressure
Most bats in temperate climates have a strategy for survival where part of the time is spent foraging for food and water, while the remaining time (daytime in summer, or for extended periods in winter) is spent in roosts.  Some species are suffering population declines and are vulnerable to habitat loss associated with urban development.  One strategy to mitigate the problem is to protect areas that provide bat habitat by outright purchases or by acquiring conservation easements on areas before they fall victim to development.  Guidance is needed to help organizations prioritize areas for habitat protection where development pressure is high.


[photo:] Lake Cospuden outside Leipzig, Germany is part of a “re-natured” landscape that was formerly devastated by strip mining for coal. Today the lake offers boating, swimming, hiking, and other recreational activities (photo courtesy of Matthias Gross).Models for Ecological Restoration in Urban Areas: Lessons from the US and Germany
We analyzed existing urban restoration projects and developed several models that articulate the various possible types of restoration projects. Together, these models can help project managers determine what kind of restoration is desirable and possible. We present case studies from San Francisco; Leipzig, Germany; and the Calumet region of Chicago and northwest Indiana.


Photo: Handhelp data recorderNational Assessments of Urban Forests
NRS scientists are working with Resource Planning Act (RPA) staff to assess urban tree cover and functions nationally from the local to state to national scales.


PhotoSongbird nesting success and habitat use: An urban-rural comparison
Because of their proximity to a large number of people, urban habitats provide areas where many people can enjoy birds. However, these habitats may not be as suitable for some songbirds as habitats in less developed settings.



Last Modified: 03/29/2018