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Though civic spaces, including parks and greens, have proven to be key providers of ecosystem services both inside and beyond urban boundaries, current research and approaches to their planning and design have failed to acknowledge the full spectrum of challenges and opportunities these areas present, particularly their diverse social, environmental, spatial, and temporal characteristics. Yet in practice, static, generic cookie-cutter park models and people- parkland standards rarely result in socially or ecologically functional civic space; rather such models have led to an abundance of degraded, underutilized, inequitable areas that are anything but an amenity. To address these deficiencies and contribute to urban ecological theory and practice in arid regions, this research conceptualizes civic spaces as heterogeneous human-environment systems that support multiple and distinct social and ecological functions and conditions which are themselves heavily impacted by their socio-ecological-spatial context. From this vantage point, this study integrates theory from urban planning, geography, parks research, and ecosystem services perspectives into the development of a framework for urban planning and design aimed at maximizing the multiple ecosystem services of arid land civic spaces across the urban-to-rural gradient.



April 2010 — Ongoing