Persistently Green: Landscapes in Transition

It’s no secret that the Charlotte region has been rapidly growing more urban over the past few decades. Yet despite the record expansion of the urbanized area experienced during economic boom times, private landowners cling to over two million acres of undeveloped land in the Charlotte metropolitan region. Why do these remnants of green persist? In many cases the development value exceeds the revenues owners would get from working the land; it seems there must be non-monetary factors influencing landowners’ decisions to hold onto those lands.

To examine the complex interactions between people and the physical, economic, and social environments in the Charlotte region that drive the decision not to develop, UNC Charlotte researchers have been awarded a competitive grant from the Urban Long-Term Research Areas Exploratory (ULTRA-EX) program of the U.S. Forest Service and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Gaining a predictive understanding of these interactions will allow the region to better anticipate responses to changes in policies and economic market conditions as it seeks both economic growth and sustainable natural landscapes.

One of only 17 awards made nationally for these pilot urban research projects, the “Piedmont Landscapes in Transition” project incorporates two highly innovative approaches in its use of “participatory science” and its blending of social science and landscape ecology methodologies. The project is a collaborative effort between the four research partners comprising UNC Charlotte’s Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), the UNC Charlotte Center for Applied GIScience (CAGIS), the UNC Charlotte Infrastructure, Design, Environment and Sustainability Center (IDEAS), the UNC Charlotte Visualization Center (VisCenter), and the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute