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Dr. Timon McPhearson

Urban Community Ecologist | PhD, Rutgers University

urban ecology, resilience, social-ecological systems

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Dr. McPhearson's research examines cities as ecosystems to study social, ecological, and technical interactions to understand urban system dynamics. He utilizes both empirical (e.g. Big Data, field experiments) and theoretical approaches (social-ecological systems and resilience theory) with a focus on the role of urban green infrastructure for advancing equity, climate change resilience, and urban sustainability.

Current Research

Comparative urban ecology

Cities are unique, but many also have similar attributes, patterns, and ecological processes. By comparing research on the ecology in and of cities across the US, Europe, and South America, this research seeks to advance a generalized understanding of the similarities and differences among cities that drive major urban social and ecological patterns. By examining the social, ecological, and technical-infrastructural system (SETS) interactions using existing "big data" across a network of cities, researchers are advancing urban ecology as an urban systems science.

Urban ecosystem services

Ecosystems in cities provide a host of benefits to urban residents ranging from cooling hot cities (especially in summer) through evapotranspiration and shading, stormwater absorption, carbon storage, recreation, and providing habitat for urban adapted species. However, the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem function, and such "ecosystem services" have not been well studied in urban areas. This research examines relationships between ecosystem function and services to better understand the spatial variation in public access to these services and how improving our ecological knowledge can advance urban planning and management of urban natural areas.

Ecosystem-based climate adaptation and urban resilience

Cities are hotspots for impacts of climate change. Ecosystems in cities and urban regions offer a suite of potential solutions for climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and urban resilience building. Through cellular automata scenario modeling, machine learning, and "big data" researchers are examining how urban ecosystems can provide novel opportunities for reducing risk and vulnerability to heat and flooding for the most vulnerable urban residents. Additionally, by linking urban biodiversity data with functional traits this work is advancing new urban ecological resilience indicators for assessing current levels of ecosystem resilience.

Urban forest dynamics

Through multi-year ecological experiments in urban forests, this research examines the short- and long-term impacts of urban tree planting and management strategy on biodiversity, ecosystem structure, and functioning. Research includes examining soil nutrients, heavy metals, and carbon dynamics over time together with extensive vegetation monitoring to evaluate best management strategies for maximizing carbon uptake and storage, invasive species control, and forest canopy closure in complex urban biological systems.

Grabowski, Zbigniew J., Timon McPhearson, Marissa Matsler, Peter M. Groffman, and Steward T. A. Pickett. 2022. “What Is Green Infrastructure? A Study Of Definitions In Us City Planning”. Frontiers In Ecology And The Environment. Wiley. doi:10.1002/fee.2445.
Mejia, GA, Peter M. Groffman, AE Downey, Elizabeth M. Cook, S Sritrairat, R Karty, MI Palmer, and Timon McPhearson. 2022. “Nitrogen Cycling And Urban Afforestation Success In New York City”. Ecological Applications. doi:10.1002/eap.2535.
Frantzeskaki, N, and Timon McPhearson. (FEB 3) 2022. “Mainstream Nature-Based Solutions For Urban Climate Resilience”. Bioscience 72 (2): 113-115, . doi:10.1093/biosci/biab105.
Spotswood, EN, M Benjamin, L Stoneburner, MM Wheeler, EE Beller, D Balk, Timon McPhearson, M Kuo, and RI McDonald. (DEC) 2021. “Nature Inequity And Higher Covid-19 Case Rates In Less-Green Neighbourhoods In The United States”. Nature Sustainability 4 (12): +, 1092+. doi:10.1038/s41893-021-00781-9.
Hoover, Fushcia-Ann, Sara Meerow, Zbigniew J. Grabowski, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Environmental Justice Implications Of Siting Criteria In Urban Green Infrastructure Planning”. Journal Of Environmental Policy & Planning. Informa UK Limited, 1-18. doi:10.1080/1523908x.2021.1945916.
Lopez, B, C Kennedy, C Field, and Timon McPhearson. (NOV) 2021. “Who Benefits From Urban Green Spaces During Times Of Crisis? Perception And Use Of Urban Green Spaces In New York City During The Covid-19 Pandemic”. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 65. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2021.127354.
Lin, Brenda B, Alessandro Ossola, Marina Alberti, Erik Andersson, Xuemei Bai, Cynnamon Dobbs, Thomas Elmqvist, et al. 2021. “Integrating Solutions To Adapt Cities For Climate Change”. The Lancet Planetary Health 5 (7). Elsevier BV: e479-e486. doi:10.1016/s2542-5196(21)00135-2.
MA Centeno, PW Callahan, A Causevic, T Patterson, I Brass, S Baum, D Farber, et al. (NOV) 2021. “Artificial Intelligence, Systemic Risks, And Sustainability”. Technology In Society 67. doi:10.1016/j.techsoc.2021.101741.
Venter, Zander S., David N. Barton, Laura Martinez-Izquierdo, Johannes Langemeyer, Francesc Baro, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Interactive Spatial Planning Of Urban Green Infrastructure – Retrofitting Green Roofs Where Ecosystem Services Are Most Needed In Oslo”. Ecosystem Services 50. Elsevier BV: 101314. doi:10.1016/j.ecoser.2021.101314.
Zhou, Weiqi, Steward T. A. Pickett, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Conceptual Frameworks Facilitate Integration For Transdisciplinary Urban Science”. Npj Urban Sustainability 1 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s42949-020-00011-9.
Elmqvist, T., E. Andersson, Timon McPhearson, X. Bai, L. Bettencourt, E. Brondizio, J. Colding, et al. 2021. “Urbanization In And For The Anthropocene”. Npj Urban Sustainability 1 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s42949-021-00018-w.
Soininen, Niko, Christopher M. Raymond, Hanna Tuomisto, Laura Ruotsalainen, Henrik Thorén, Andra-Ioana Horcea-Milcu, Milutin Stojanovic, et al. 2021. “Bridge Over Troubled Water: Managing Compatibility And Conflict Among Thought Collectives In Sustainability Science”. Sustainability Science 17 (1). Springer Science and Business Media LLC: 27-44. doi:10.1007/s11625-021-01068-w.
Frantzeskaki, Niki, Timon McPhearson, and Nadja Kabisch. 2021. “Urban Sustainability Science: Prospects For Innovations Through A System’s Perspective, Relational And Transformations’ Approaches”. Ambio. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1007/s13280-021-01521-1.
Downey, Alisen E., Peter M. Groffman, Gisselle A. Mejía, Elizabeth M. Cook, Sanpisa Sritrairat, Richard Karty, Matthew I. Palmer, and Timon McPhearson. 2021. “Soil Carbon Sequestration In Urban Afforestation Sites In New York City”. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 65. Elsevier BV: 127342. doi:10.1016/j.ufug.2021.127342.
Rosenzweig, B. R., P. Herreros, Y. Kim, A. Cohn, K. Grove, J. Brock, J. Yesuf, et al. 2021. “The Value Of Urban Flood Modeling”. Earth's Future 9 (1). American Geophysical Union (AGU). doi:10.1029/2020ef001739.
Frantzeskaki, Niki, Timon McPhearson, and Nadja Kabisch. 2021. “Urban Sustainability Science: Prospects For Innovations Through A System’s Perspective, Relational And Transformations’ Approaches”. Ambio. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1007/s13280-021-01521-1.
Chang, Heejun, Arun Pallathadka, Jason Sauer, Nancy B. Grimm, Rae Zimmerman, Chingwen Cheng, David M. Iwaniec, et al. 2021. “Assessment Of Urban Flood Vulnerability Using The Social-Ecological-Technological Systems Framework In Six Us Cities”. Sustainable Cities And Society 68. Elsevier BV: 102786. doi:10.1016/j.scs.2021.102786.
Zhou, Weiqi, GL Huang, Steward T. A. Pickett, J Wang, Mary L. Cadenasso, Timon McPhearson, JM Grove, and J Wang. (DEC 17) 2021. “Urban Tree Canopy Has Greater Cooling Effects In Socially Vulnerable Communities In The Us”. One Earth 4 (12): 1764-1775, . doi:10.1016/j.oneear.2021.11.010.
Kronenberg, Jakub, Erik Andersson, David N. Barton, Sara T. Borgström, Johannes Langemeyer, Tove Björklund, Dagmar Haase, et al. 2021. “The Thorny Path Toward Greening: Unintended Consequences, Trade-Offs, And Constraints In Green And Blue Infrastructure Planning, Implementation, And Management”. Ecology And Society 26 (2). Resilience Alliance, Inc.. doi:10.5751/es-12445-260236.
Pineda-Pinto, M, P Herreros-Cantis, Timon McPhearson, N Frantzeskaki, J Wang, and WQ Zhou. (NOV) 2021. “Examining Ecological Justice Within The Social-Ecological-Technological System Of New York City, Usa”. Landscape And Urban Planning 215. doi:10.1016/j.lurbplan.2021.104228.