The study, conducted by the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, was undertaken in order to "measure ecological characteristics of the Central Arizona-Phoenix area, provide a baseline for future monitoring, and give an overview of features such as plant diversity, soil chemistry, and animal distributions," stated LTER's program director in an NSF press release.
According to the NSF press statement, "the entire study area (some 6,400 square kilometers) was covered with a five-by-five-kilometer grid. Field measurements were done in 30-by-30-meter survey plots, and included identifying all native and exotic plants; mapping the area of surface cover; collecting samples of soils, insects, microbes and pollen; and taking photos from the center of each plot. Since this survey, which was conducted in the spring of 2000, scientists have monitored bird abundance and diversity, along with human activity, at 40 of the 200-plus sites, four times a year."
The rich get more growies
According to NSF scientist Diane Hope, director of the field study, "preliminary analyses show that total plant diversity in the desert becomes greater as the elevation of the site increases, but in the city, resource abundance (government-speak for wealth) is the key factor." In other words, the more money you have, the more different types of plants you are likely to plant in your yard.
Justification for this research? "When investigating urban systems, we must re-conceptualize biodiversity in terms of human choice, and in terms of how choices are made, and why," said NSF scientist Charles Redman.
But wait... There's more
As an added bonus, the NSF study also revealed greater bird diversity in higher income residential areas. Could there be a scientific trend here? If the yards of the wealthy contain more plants and birds than yards of the less "resource abundant," could this effect also apply to items like sailboats, RVs and pool houses? Fear not, inquiring minds, we'll find out. There's plenty of our money out there for funding this sort of vital research and Congress is working on spending it right now.
Note: "NSF is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly." (National Science Foundation)