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This is a model of plant communities in urban and suburban residential neighborhoods. These plant communities are of interest because they provide many benefits to human residents and also provide habitat for wildlife such as birds and pollinators. The model was designed to explore the social factors that create spatial patterns in biodiversity in yards and gardens. In particular, the model was originally developed to determine whether mimicry behaviors–-or neighbors copying each other’s yard design–-could produce observed spatial patterns in vegetation. Plant nurseries and socio-economic constraints were also added to the model as other potential sources of spatial patterns in plant communities.
The idea for the model was inspired by empirical patterns of spatial autocorrelation that have been observed in yard vegetation in Chicago, Illinois (USA), and other cities, where yards that are closer together are more similar than yards that are farther apart. The idea is further supported by literature that shows that people want their yards to fit into their neighborhood. Currently, the yard attribute of interest is the number of plant species, or species richness. Residents compare the richness of their yards to the richness of their neighbors’ yards. If a resident’s yard is too different from their neighbors, the resident will be unhappy and change their yard to make it more similar.
The model outputs information about the diversity and identity of plant species in each yard. This can be analyzed to look for spatial autocorrelation patterns in yard diversity and to explore relationships between mimicry behaviors, yard diversity, and larger scale diversity.