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Idaho State University

Investigating social-ecological system boundaries and domains across MILES sites


Idaho State University Participants

Donna Lybecker, Kathleen Lohse, Danelle Larson (post-doctoral researcher), Colden Baxter, Susan Parsons, Mark McBeth, Antonio Castro, Rebecca Hale, Ben Crosby, Sarah Godsey, Stephen Joy (graduate student), Xochitl Sanchez (MURI student), Kimberly Qualman (MURI student), Jennie Sorenson (MURI student)

Partners and Affilation

Michail Fragkias at BSU, Christopher Felt (graduate student) at U of I, Haifeng (Felix) Laio at U of I, Li Huang (graduate student) at U of I.

Research Problem

Realized and perceived boundaries exist in many forms: geographical, biophysical, political, and social. However, the nature of such boundaries and the extent to which they overlay one another to create “SES domains,” is understudied. In many cases, social and ecological boundaries may not map simply on one another, highlighting mismatches of social-ecological domains. This study is conducting a common suite of analyses and cross-site comparisons of the structure, function, and overlap of social and ecological boundaries in Idaho’s mid-sized cities.

Research Outcomes

To accomplish this, we are using multiple, pre-existing datasets and geospatial analyses to locate SES boundaries and associated domains. Then within the sites, we are characterizing the structure of these boundaries, addressing domain function regarding “hotspots” for ecosystem services, and comparing and contrasting boundaries across sites. Finally, we are also examining how these boundaries have shifted historically in space and time—we will use this to model future scenarios to project how SES boundaries might appear and function in the future. To date, we have: examined landscape fragmentation at the level of small- and medium-sized cities in Idaho, identifying the influence of distance from the center of city on the values of the landscape metric and how the landscape metrics of built-up areas change over time and analyzed ecosystem services value (economic), local development, and their relationship in Idaho’s mid-sized cities. Cross-site comparisons are also underway for both of those. Finally we are currently in-process of conducting random-sample surveys of households within urban, sub-urban, ex-urban and rural areas in order to add the social valuation component to our research.

Potential Impacts

Informed and balanced urban growth within and around Idaho’s mid-sized cities has the potential to minimize fragmentation, increase property values, and create communities that highlight the ecosystem services that are important to the residents. This research on mid-sized city growth is allowing scientists and students from Idaho’s large Universities to collaborate and to help inform partners and stakeholders. This work will help in determining best practices for growth and development, and protecting ecosystem services that are highly valued by individuals in Idaho. Finally the cross-site comparisons will also allow for information and strategy sharing among Idaho’s mid-sized cities.


Additional Information

Felt, Christopher, Michail Fragkian, Kathleen Lohse, Danelle Larson, Donna Lybecker (and others?). “Small- to medium-scale urbanization patterns: A comparative study of urban fragmentation in Idaho” In draft form, to be submitted this summer.