Variation in landscaping style and maintenance practices associated with different styles may influence a wide range of ecological and social phenomena, including biogeochemical processing, water consumption, avian and insect communities, and quality of life for residents. Experimental tests of these linkages, however, are largely lacking in urban ecology. Using the NDV residential development recently acquired by ASU at its East Campus, we will undertake an unprecedented neighborhood-scale experiment. Four residential landscape design/water delivery types established in blocks of six households each (mini-neighborhoods) will recreate the four prevailing residential yardscape types found across the CAP study area during the first five years of research. These are: mesic/flood irrigation - a mixture of exotic high water-use vegetation and turf grass; oasis - a mixture of drip-watered, high and low water-use plants, and sprinkler-irrigated turf grass; xeric - individually watered, low water-use exotic and native plants; and native - native Sonoran Desert plants and no supplemental water. Six additional households will be monitored as no-plant, no-water controls. Although NDV is not representative of the entire breadth of socioeconomic groups in the CAP region, it is a residential village for students with families. Thus, many of the socioeconomic issues applicable to single-family residences, which comprise the largest component of housing across metro Phoenix, will be addressed.
A central research question for the NDV experiment is: How does residential landscape design affect socio-ecosystem function at household and neighborhood scales? The experiment will also allow us to examine how biophysical information feeds back into human decision-making and behavior, at the household scale. We will address the following detailed research questions: 1) How do different landscape-treatments influence recreational behavior in yards and common areas? 2) Does structural complexity correlate with quantity of residents ecological folk knowledge? 3) Are people less likely to move into or out of a landscape that conforms to their broader social values? and 4) Do people living in desert landscapes use less water inside and outside their homes? The experiment will also allow us to tackle the question: How are biodiversity and ecosystem function related in urban ecosystems where there has not been a long co-evolutionary history?