Wildlife management practices can be implemented in other fields

Read the full story at The Land.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has found it practical to enlist farmers to assist in managing their Wildlife Management Areas. For years, farmers have been involved in providing food plots on WMAs.

Road to nowhere: why the suburban cul-de-sac is an urban planning dead end

Getty Images

by Timothy Welch, University of Auckland

The cul-de-sac is a suburban trap. It’s virtually useless as a road, doesn’t support public transport, cycling or walking, and doesn’t work well as a play or gathering place. Its literal translation from the French is “bottom of a sack” – which sounds a lot less glamorous, you’ll agree.

And yet we persist with them. The calls for more housing that resonate across many urban societies almost always include plans to repurpose broad swathes of agricultural land into single-family housing serviced by twisting strands of cul-de-sac-capped roads.

But there is a danger in embracing this type of development. Despite the French name, the cul-de-sac as it exists today is not even from Europe. Like many modern transport nightmares, it originated in the car-oriented suburban planning of 1950s America, a defence against the perceived threat of the inner city.

Cul-de-sacs were envisioned initially as small offshoots from more traditional grid roads. They eventually morphed into isolated loops at the end of curvilinear patterns where only residents of the suburb would travel. They are the antithesis of connectivity.

Developers favour cul-de-sacs partly because they allow for building more single-family houses. Getty Images

A developer’s dream

In pushing the cul-de-sac, land and housing developers were merely continuing with a misguided notion that began with suburbs in general: those endless landscapes of single-family homes on large sections were promoted as a way to re-engage with the community and escape the rat race of city living.

But studies have shown residents of suburbs have much lower rates of civic engagement than those living in a more urban environment.

Developers told us cul-de-sacs were more efficient because they allowed higher densities. While not entirely a lie, it isn’t the whole truth either. Developers favour cul-de-sacs partly because they allow for building more single-family houses on oddly shaped land or closer to natural features than would otherwise be possible with a grid. Cul-de-sac suburbs often completely ignore topography or nature in their development.

Developers also favour cul-de-sacs because they require up to 50% less road, fewer pipes, streetlights and footpaths compared to traditional grid street patterns.

Snaking, disconnected cul-de-sac streetscapes mean less road to construct compared to a well-connected grid with more complex street hierarchies. But that also means fewer kilometres of footpaths, bike lanes and through-streets for public transport.

The very nature of cul-de-sacs means residents often require a car. Getty Images

Costly and impractical

Suburban single-family housing on “greenfield” development is cheap to build and has a high profit margin. Unfortunately, disconnected, car-centric, large-home suburbs result in higher per capita infrastructure costs, vehicle ownership and travel time costs, and higher overall purchase prices. And the real cost of suburban living is met by governments, councils and residents.

True, people are often attracted to cul-de-sacs because they’re seen as having minimal traffic. Ironically, the very nature of cul-de-sacs means residents often require a car as their primary mode of transport. People searching for a refuge from the noise, pollution and danger of cars have backed themselves – literally – into a corner.

The isolated and circuitous nature of cul-de-sac suburbs means there is often no access to public transportation. And active modes like walking, cycling and scooting are impractical. A lack of alternatives to the car means suburban residents have higher rates of car ownership – an added expense inner-city residents often don’t face.

Meanwhile, children might be only a few streets away from their friends, but in a jumble of winding roads and dead ends it’s virtually impossible to walk or cycle quickly to each other’s houses. Even that time-honoured rite of passage – walking alone to school – is impractical in this type of development.

Because these winding roads without any obvious focal point also often have low traffic volumes, they can’t support land uses other than low-density residences. As a result, even grabbing milk and bread from the dairy can involve a trip of several kilometres.

No exit

Compared to the straight lines of traditional developments, the curvilinear roads that sweep through modern subdivisions might seem relaxing, even pastoral. But lurking around every curve is a hidden danger.

Lines of sight are significantly reduced, making every car backing out of its driveway a risk for other motorists. For pedestrians and people on bikes, this lack of visibility presents a significant danger.

New developments also tend to have wider streets and fewer intersections, encouraging faster driving. Higher speeds and lower visibility can be a deadly combination. Studies have shown fatal car crashes are 270% more likely in newer, cul-de-sac-laden developments compared to older traditional neighbourhoods.

All in all, giving something a French name might make it sound classy, but a cul-de-sac is really just a dead end. And that’s exactly what cul-de-sac subdivisions are, too – an urban planning dead end.

Timothy Welch, Senior Lecturer in Urban Planning, University of Auckland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Protecting 30% of Earth’s surface for nature means thinking about connections near and far

Red knots stop to feed along the Delaware shore as they migrate from the high Arctic to South America. Gregory Breese, USFWS/Flickr

by Veronica Frans, Michigan State University and Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Michigan State University

A biodiversity crisis is reducing the variety of life on Earth. Under pressure from land and water pollution, development, overhunting, poaching, climate change and species invasions, approximately 1 million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.

One ambitious proposal for stemming these losses is the international initiative known as 30×30: conserving and protecting at least 30% of Earth’s surface, on land and at sea, by 2030.

Currently, 112 countries support this initiative, including the United States. More nations may announce their support at the international biodiversity conference that opens Dec. 7, 2022, in Montreal.

Scientists say that protecting 30% of Earth’s surface will help species and ecosystems recover from the stresses that are depleting them. It also will conserve valuable services that nature provides to humans, such as buffering coasts from storms and filtering drinking water. Protecting forests and grasslands can help slow climate change by promoting carbon storage in soil and plants.

As researchers in ecology, conservation and global sustainability, we study biodiversity around the world, from giant pandas deep in the forests of China to sea lions along the shorelines of New Zealand. Saving a wide variety of living things requires striking a balance between the needs of nature and people, and a global, holistic perspective. We believe a metacoupling approach, which looks at human-nature interactions within and across different areas, can help achieve the 30×30 goal.

What is a protected area?

Since 30×30 focuses on protecting space for wild nature, many people assume it means setting swaths of land or ocean aside and keeping people out of them. But that’s not always true.

As of mid-2021, 16.64% of the world’s land and 7.74% of its oceans were in protected areas. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a partnership of governments and civil society groups that tracks the health of the natural world, classifies protected areas in six categories:

  • Strict nature reserve or wilderness area
  • National park
  • Natural monument or feature
  • Habitat or species management area
  • Protected landscape or seascape
  • Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources

Many countries’ 30×30 conservation pledges are likely to include areas such as forests and grasslands that are open for recreation, logging, livestock grazing and other uses.

Cows graze on a lush field surrounded by evergreen trees
Cattle grazing at Kaiser Meadows in California’s Sierra National Forest. Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Few intact ecosystems remain

Scientists agree that protected areas need to include a large variety of species, ecosystems and habitats that the 30×30 initiative aims to conserve. There are many ways to choose and prioritize new areas for protection. Criteria can include the species, habitats and ecosystems that an area contains; its connections to other protected areas; how large and intact an area is; and the benefits it provides to people who live in, near and far from it.

Some scientists contend that the top priorities should be places that are still ecologically intact and virtually untouched by humans. But only about 3% of the Earth’s land and oceans are still in this state. And even wilderness areas can’t escape the effects of climate change caused by human activities elsewhere.

Over 58% of our planet’s land and 41% of its oceans are already under moderate to intense human pressure. This means that most newly protected areas will effectively be works in progress, with restoration projects to help species recover, improve habitat quality and make ecosystems healthier.

Ryan Davis, Pennsylvania forest program manager with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, explains options for stabilizing stream banks that have become badly eroded.

Another 40% of land and 10% of oceans have experienced relatively low impacts from human activities. Terrestrial ecosystems with the lowest human footprints include tundra, boreal forests and deserts. At the other extreme, tropical, subtropical and temperate forests are at the highest risk.

In the oceans, areas with the lowest human pressures are near the poles or in polar regions. Coral ecosystems, which are home to 25% of all marine life, are under the most pressure.

It isn’t always possible to protect large areas. Some scientists argue that small areas can still successfully protect species, but others disagree. In our view, what ultimately matters is how multiple protected areas are connected and how close they are to each other.

Connections can develop naturally, like the flyways that migrating birds use to travel between continents. Or they can be structures built by humans, such as wildlife bridges over highways. Connecting protected areas is important because it promotes genetic diversity and makes it possible for species to move in response to climate change and other threats.

A bridge planted with grasses over a four-lane highway
Wildlife crossings, like this vegetated bridge over a highway in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, can connect protected land and help wildlife move across large areas. Sven-Erik Arndt/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The metacoupling approach

Given all these factors, selecting protected areas can get complicated. Based on our research, we think that a holistic approach can make 30×30 feasible and effective. It has three parts.

First, protected areas should meet both conservation needs and human needs. Second, in creating newly protected areas, researchers and managers should consider how they will interact with adjacent areas. Third, researchers and officials should assess how newly protected areas will interact with areas far away – including in other countries.

This approach is guided by the metacoupling framework, which is an integrated way to study and manage human-nature interactions within and between different places. It recognizes that human and natural systems in a given place can be affected for better or worse by people, policies and markets both nearby and far away.

At Wolong Nature Reserve in southwestern China, one of us, Jack Liu, has worked with Chinese collaborators to understand and manage human-nature interactions in ways that support the recovery of a global wildlife icon – giant pandas. Wolong, which is now part of China’s Giant Panda National Park, was one of the first and largest panda reserves in China, and also houses numerous other rare animals and plants. It is also home to almost 6,000 people.

Two people converse in a small market.
Ecologist Jianguo ‘Jack’ Liu, left, speaks with a resident in Wolong, China, about pressures on panda habitat. Michigan State University, CC BY-ND

Forest is an important part of panda habitat, but over time the human population in Wolong grew and needed more resources, such as wood for cooking and heating or to make goods for visiting tourists. In a 2001 study, our team showed that panda habitat in Wolong declined faster after the reserve was established in 1975 than it had before that time. Increasing demand for wood was degrading and fragmenting the forest and negatively affected panda population numbers.

To reverse this trend, our team worked with the Chinese government to provide more financial support to the local community in the early 2000s. This increased household incomes and reduced the need to harvest wood.

Taking a broad geographic view of the pandas’ situation helped to produce a positive outcome. Recognizing that panda habitat was being affected not just by human-nature interactions inside Wolong but also by interactions between Wolong and adjacent and distant places showed that conservation subsidies from the faraway central government in Beijing could improve protection for Wolong forests.

In 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature downlisted and reclassified giant pandas from endangered to vulnerable. Today there are an estimated 1,800 giant pandas in the wild, thanks partly to government subsidies that helped strike a balance between humans’ needs and those of pandas.

All protected areas are influenced by human actions both nearby and far away. We believe that creating and managing protected areas using a holistic metacoupling approach will make it easier to achieve the 30×30 goal and make sound decisions that sustain nature and human well-being around the world.

Veronica Frans, PhD Student in Fisheries & Wildlife and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior, Michigan State University and Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, Michigan State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What’s really driving ‘climate gentrification’ in Miami? It isn’t fear of sea-level rise

Residents of Miami’s Little Haiti have been fighting plans for a luxury development for several years. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

by Richard Grant, University of Miami and Han Li, University of Miami

Miami’s Little Haiti has been an immigrant community for decades. Its streets are lined with small homes and colorful shops that cater to the neighborhood, a predominantly Afro-Caribbean population with a median household income well below Miami’s.

But Little Haiti’s character may be changing.

A $1 billion real estate development called the Magic City Innovation District is planned in the neighborhood, with luxury high-rise apartments, high-end shops and glass office towers.

Two women walk past Cafe Creole, with vibrant paintings on the side, including one wall reading 'Stand up lil Haiti' with a raised fist.
Little Haiti’s streets have been lined with murals and mom-and-pop shops for generations, but that’s changing. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The developers emphasize their commitment to sustainability. But high-end real estate investments like this raise property values, pushing up property taxes and the cost of living for surrounding neighborhoods.

The potential effect on shops and homeowners and on the culture of the community has stoked controversy and protests. Nearby strip malls have been bought up for new development, leaving long-time businesses with fewer affordable options. Other big developments are now being planned.

Some media and urban scholars have labeled what’s happening here “climate gentrification.”

It’s the idea that investors and homebuyers are changing their behavior and moving from coastal areas into poorer, higher-elevation neighborhoods like Little Haiti, which sits on a ridge less than a mile from the bay, in anticipation of worsening climate change risks, such as sea-level rise. Miami is often held up as an example.

But are Miami’s investors and homebuyers really motivated by climate change?

A different kind of gentrification

The story goes that Miami homebuyers are abandoning the coasts – where high tides can already bring street flooding in some areas – and are looking for higher-elevation areas because they want to escape climate change.

That isn’t what we’re finding, though.

In Yale’s Climate Opinion Survey of Miami-Dade County in 2021, only half of Miami residents said they believe global warming will harm them personally – far lower than the 70% who said that in Delaware and the 90% in Canada, Western Europe and Japan. Another survey found 40% of Miami-Dade residents weren’t concerned about the impact climate change might have on the market.

In a new study, our team at the University of Miami found a more nuanced picture of what is actually pushing homeowners to higher ground.

For the most part, we found that the shift away from the coasts is fueled by costs. Flood risk plays a role through the rising cost of flood insurance, but much of the shift is plain old gentrification – developers looking for cheaper land and spinning it as a more sustainable choice to win over public officials and future residents.

Rather than bottom-up pressure built on residents’ alarm about sea-level rise, we found a continuation of the usual rational investment decisions.

Developers are driving the process

Present-day “climate gentrification” in Miami is largely determined and driven by capitalist investment opportunities – relatively lower prices and greater expected returns – which are the characteristics of the traditional gentrification process.

We found that neither homebuyers nor real estate agents are driving this process today in Miami. Rather, developers are using the concept of climate risk to market properties in more elevated areas and are working in tandem with policymakers to facilitate urban redevelopment.

Miami is very different from other global cities, in that its wealthy homebuyers and second-home buyers exhibit fewer concerns about rising sea levels and climate change. A large percentage of Miami homebuyers – about 13% in 2021 – don’t live in the U.S. and may evaluate risk differently, seeing Miami properties as safer investments than they have at home or as future second homes.

Miami’s gentrification also isn’t limited to higher-elevation neighborhoods. In coastal areas such as Miami Beach, taxes and housing and rental prices are rising, and poorer people are being pushed out of neighborhoods. Miami’s average rent is now over $2,800 a month, up 16% from October 2021 to October 2022. That’s about $800 higher than the U.S. average, and it rose at nearly twice the national rate over the past year.

Coastal homebuyers should be more concerned

Climate change is without question a risk for Miami. The insurance industry warns that sea-level rise and moderate flooding of up to 1 foot will affect 48% of total properties in oceanfront Miami-Dade County by 2050.

Homebuyers should be more concerned than they are.

We believe “climate gentrification” is a meaningful concept for exploring how the impacts and costs of climate change will shift housing and urban inequalities in the future. But so far, the idea that gentrification is fueled by climate change in Miami doesn’t match reality.

Richard Grant, Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, University of Miami and Han Li, Assistant Professor of Geography, University of Miami

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Urban planning is now on the front line of the climate crisis. This is what it means for our cities and towns

by Barbara Norman, University of Canberra

International climate talks in Egypt known as COP27 are into their second week. Thursday is Solutions Day at the summit. Recognising that urban planning is now a front-line response to climate change, discussions will focus on sustainable cities and transport, green buildings and resilient infrastructure.

The COP26 Glasgow Pact expects countries to update planning at all levels of government to take climate change and adaptations into account. Urban planning is also included in the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Australian Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements similarly reinforced the urgency of planning for climate change. Its report recommended making it mandatory for land-use planning decisions to consider natural disaster risks.

Australian communities have been through a series of recent disasters. We have had extremes of drought, bushfires and now storms and floods. Some towns have been evacuated repeatedly.

Land-use planning needs to be updated to respond to a changing climate. This means working with nature, involving communities and, importantly, including the tools needed to plan for risk and uncertainty. Examples include scenario planning, carbon assessments of developments, water-sensitive urban design and factoring in the latest climate science into everyday decisions on land use.

We can’t avoid the issue of resettlement

Climate-driven resettlement, in my view, will be one of the most significant social challenges of this century. The IPCC estimates that “3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change […] unsustainable development patterns are increasing exposure of ecosystems and people to climate hazards”.

The costs are staggering. The OECD estimates, for example, that in the past two decades alone, the cost of storms reached US$1.4 trillion globally.

In my review of recent climate-induced resettlement around the world, two important lessons are:

  1. it must actively involve the community
  2. it takes time.

The relocation of houses in Grantham, Queensland, is a positive example of resettlement. The repeated floods across eastern Australia – and the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-20 – show why a national conversation with urban and regional communities on this very challenging issue needs to start very soon.

Many houses in Grantham were relocated after devastating floods. Dave Hunt/AAP

What are the essential actions for planning?

Based in part on interviews with urban leaders around the world for my new book, Urban Planning for Climate Change, I have put forward ten essential actions. Particularly relevant to Australia are the following actions:

  • map the climate risks and overlay these on existing and future urban zones to identify the “hot spots” – then publicly share the data
  • make it mandatory to consider natural disaster and climate risks in all land-use planning decisions for new development and redevelopment
  • plan for the cumulative impacts of climate change on communities and their consequences – this includes planning resettlement with those at risk
  • provide an inclusive platform for community conversations about carbon-neutral development and adaptation options – such as climate-resilient housing and smart local renewable energy hubs – together with up-to-date, accessible information on predicted climate risks so communities and industry can make informed decisions
  • invest in strategic planning that integrates action on carbon-neutral development and climate adaptation. Do not build housing any more on flood-prone land or areas of extreme fire risk.

The outcome must be that policymakers and the public have a clear understanding of where the risks are, where to build, where not to build, and the range of options in between.

For example, not building on the coastal edge does not mean quarantining that land. It means allowing activities, such as recreation, that can withstand increasing coastal flooding, as well as coastal-dependent uses such as fisheries and coastal landscapes designed to absorb storm surges.

What are the next steps for Australia?

Architects, engineers, planners and builders around the world are working with communities to make development more sustainable. They need support from all levels of government.

To better plan for climate change, we in Australia can take a few key steps:

1. Update the 2011 National Urban Policy

An updated national policy should incorporate the latest climate science, national emission targets, energy policies and adaptation plans. This will help ensure new development, redevelopment and critical infrastructure are designed and built to be carbon-neutral and adapt to a changing climate.

2. Audit planning at all levels to ensure it considers climate change

The federal government should host a meeting of state and territory planning and infrastructure ministers as soon as possible after COP27. Climate change needs to be a mandatory consideration in all future land-use planning. The ministers should commission an audit of all planning legislation and major city and regional centre plans to ensure this happens.

Engagement with wider industry will be important to ensure effective implementation. Partnering in demonstration projects that showcase affordable, climate-resilient urban development can help promote the uptake of leading practice. Examples range from affordable retrofitting of housing with renewable energy solutions to recycled building materials and heat-reducing landscaping.

Extending this approach to whole neighbourhoods and suburbs is the next step.

3. Engage with the region

The federal government should continue its positive first steps on climate change with our regional neighbours, including Indonesia, New Zealand and Pacific Island nations. This long-term work needs to include support for developing climate-resilient towns and cities, as well as for resettlement.

We can learn from each other on this challenging pathway, which will connect us more than ever as a region.

4. Ensure all levels of government work together on strategic funding

Funding is needed to develop climate-resilient plans for communities across Australia. This will help minimise future impacts and ensure we are building back better now and for future generations.

Most of the developments being approved today will still be here in 2050. This means these developments must factor in climate change now.

We now have a national government that is committed to action on climate change, thank goodness. Much is being done on renewable energy and electrification of the transport system. It is time to turn our attention to making our built environment more climate-resilient.

Barbara Norman, Emeritus Professor of Urban & Regional Planning, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Countries want to plant trees to offset their carbon emissions, but there isn’t enough land on Earth to grow them

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

Researchers behind the Land Gap Report say we can’t plant our way out of global warming—and it’s disingenuous to pretend that we can.

Rewetting southern peatlands could prevent millions of tons of CO2 emissions

Read the full story from Duke University.

Rewetting and restoring 250,000 acres of southern pocosin peatlands that had been drained for farming but now lie fallow could prevent 4.3 million tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide, now stored in their soils, from oxidizing and escaping back into Earth’s atmosphere each year, a Duke University study shows. That amount equals 2.4% of the total annual reductions in CO2 emissions needed for the United States to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Nonprofit buys 31,000 forested acres by Copper Harbor to keep land public

Read the full story at Bridge Michigan.

The Nature Conservancy will buy more than 31,000 acres in the Keweenaw Peninsula, keeping it open to the public. Locals had feared losing access to the forest land after hedge fund owners put the land up for sale. The purchase comes as a flourishing outdoor recreation scene fuels change in the Keweenaw.

ERI part of NSF-funded collaboration exploring extreme heat solutions in Midwest communities

Read the full story from Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute.

Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) is a partner on a new National Science Foundation (NSF) Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC) grant to explore solutions to mitigate heat island effects in collaboration with Indianapolis and three other Midwestern communities.

The grant, led by the Midwest Climate Collaborative (MCC) of which ERI is a member, aims to design community-based solutions for equitable expansion of tree canopies by working with stakeholders and applying existing research and data.

Bridging the gap: Equitable investment in city greenspace

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

Green infrastructure encompasses a variety of practices that use soil and vegetation including vegetated rooftops, roadside plantings, tree-lined streets with natural canopy cover, and absorbent gardens to capture, filter, and reduce stormwater. Manufactured materials such as porous pavement is another example of GI often used in sidewalks, parking lots and driveways to increase surface permeability. Porous pavement allows rainfall to seep through to underlying layers of soil that filter the surface water before becoming groundwater.

Creating more greenspace in urban areas not only adds natural beauty to the surrounding area but can also improve the health and well-being of its residents. The presence of parks, community gardens and other vegetation can create recreational spaces, revitalize ecosystems and boost the local economy – all of which are highly beneficial to people living within those urban areas. However, these services are not always distributed equitably and can result in or perpetuate environmental injustices in received benefits.

EPA actively supports the use of both constructed and natural GI as cost-effective alternatives to traditional stormwater infrastructure to help manage wet weather flows and conducts research to identify and quantify the effects of green infrastructure and urban greenspace.

As part of this effort, a team of EPA scientists led by Matt Hopton and Page Jordan focused on identifying benefits received from urban greenspace and supporting integration of these benefits into stormwater management planning. In 2019, Hopton and team began designing a framework to demonstrate a practical approach to help communities access benefits of greenspace while managing stormwater. This effort led to the team conducting a case study to test the framework and learn if those benefits could be used in underserved urban areas.