Context: In city after city, researchers have noticed that wealthier areas often support a greater diversity of plant and animal species (“biodiversity”) compared to poorer areas. There is even a name for this pattern, “The Luxury Effect,” which suggests that high socioeconomic status (“SES” – in the form of wealth or political power, for example) buys resources such as land, time, and labor, which can be used to increase local biodiversity.
Interestingly, this pattern does not occur in every city. What’s going on? How and why do patterns differ between cities and what can we learn from these differences?
Action: As part of the UrBioNet Social-ecological Linkages working group, we found 84 case studies from 34 cities in which researchers assessed SES-biodiversity relationships. We used fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) to evaluate combinations of factors that explain why these relationships vary city to city.
Result: While most cases showed positive SES-biodiversity relationships, we identified circumstances in which inequality in biodiversity was reduced through certain urban designs and social policies. In publishing and communicating our findings we hope to provide a framework for future researchers and city planners to use to ensure that everyone in the city has access to biodiversity.
Check out the links below to learn more:
- Our paper in Landscape and Urban Planning, “Urban socioeconomic inequality and biodiversity often converge, but not always: A global meta-analysis“
- The Urban Biodiversity Research Coordination Network (UrBioNet) website and an early explanation of the project.
- The Warren Urban Ecology Lab at UMass Amherst, always generating new research about urban ecology.
- A blog posts I wrote for That’s Life [Science] (TLS) about why some people’s homes are full of plants and other’s are not.
- A blog post written by Lohitha Madhireddy, a UMass undergrad who has helped with this project, about the complications of studying the “luxury effect.”
- Two TLS posts I wrote about experiencing biodiversity, through the lens of Pokemon Go. Part 1 and Part 2.
- My Master’s thesis: Urban Biodiversity Experience and Exposure: Intervention and Inequality at the Local and Global Scale