Activating landscape ecology: a governance framework for design-in-science

Katherine Foo, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
James McCarthy, Clark University
Anthony Bebbington, Clark University


Context: In response to predominantly local and private approaches to landscape change, landscape ecologists should critically assess the multiscalar influences on landscape design. Objectives: This study develops a governance framework for Nassauer and Opdam’s “Design-in-Science” model. Its objective is to create an approach for examining hierarchical constraints on landscape design in order to investigate linkages among urban greening initiatives, patterns of landscape change, and the broader societal values driving those changes. It aims to provide an integrative and actionable approach for landscape sustainability science. Methods: This framework is examined through an ethnographic study of public policy processes surrounding the urban tree initiatives in Boston, MA; Philadelphia, PA; and Baltimore, MD. Results: These initiatives demonstrate the impact of political and economic decentralization on urban landscape patterns. Their collaborative governance approach incorporates diverse resources to implement programming at a fine-scale. The predominant tree giveaway program fragments the urban and regional forest. Conclusion: Spatial and temporal fragmentation undermines the long-term security of urban greening programs, and it suggests reconsideration of the role of state regimes in driving broad scale spatial planning.