University of Florida

UF/IFAS researcher: Signs can help conserve natural resources in urban neighborhoods

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Green Living


Please see caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher wants to help you engage your neighbors to conserve urban biodiversity.

Mark Hostetler, a UF/IFAS professor of wildlife ecology and conservation, sees educational signs in neighborhoods as a way to nudge people to change their landscape practices, among other activities.

“Such signs can help homeowners understand ways to manage their homes, yards and neighborhoods in a more sustainable way,” Hostetler said.

Although they’ve installed signs in several neighborhoods in Florida, Hostetler is confident the signs can work in any urban subdivision in America. Changing landscaping practices can have a positive impact on many sustainability variables, he said. For example, a study in Chicago found that the cumulative impact of individual yards that contained greater amounts of wildlife habitat had increased native bird diversity. Other studies have shown that the characteristics of yards can improve the biodiversity measures in neighborhoods and cities.

Signs must be durable and changed, Hostetler said. He and his students wanted to keep information relatively new, and they wanted to keep the signs from decaying in the heat, humidity and rain of Florida.

In a new UF/IFAS Extension document, http://bit.ly/1RmJOWW, Hostetler outlines how he and some of his graduate students lined a Gainesville, Florida, neighborhood with signs aimed at educating the residents about how they could conserve natural resources in their subdivision and areas nearby.

They also put up signs and later surveyed homeowners in a neighborhood in Harmony, Florida, southeast of Orlando. After two years of exposure to the program, Harmony homeowners showed significant improvement in some environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, and a control community did not, Hostetler said. In fact, residents looked at the signs more than they visited a website or brochure on the same topic.

One way to achieve success through the signs is to feature a homeowner who has implemented conservation practices and wants to share his methods with his neighbors, Hostetler said.

“The idea is that a local, knowledgeable homeowner can affect change much better than outside experts coming in and talking with only a few residents,” he said.


Caption: This sign urges residents to practice conservation measures. UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation Professor Mark Hostetler and his graduate students have placed such signs in several neighborhoods to get people to conserve the biodiversity in urban subdivisions — and it works.

Credit: Mark Hostetler, UF/IFAS

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Mark Hostetler, 352-846-0568, hostetm@ufl.edu




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