Zoning has heterogeneous effects on housing growth, but in most cases is not strong enough to affect ecosystem functions
Zoning is a popular strategy used by land managers to limit housing growth in the United States. However, considering the importance of conservation of ecosystem functions, it still was unclear whether zoning by itself is sufficient to manage housing growth AND to conserve ecosystem functions. Van Butsic attempted to answer this question for lake-filled Vilas County, WI where residential housing has increased and the consequent ecological effects have been well documented. His goal was to empirically quantify the ecological effects of minimum frontage zoning on lake shorelines.
Van evaluated his simulated landscape changes using the observed changes in the landscape during the same period, and found high coincidence between the original and the simulated landscape changes. This empirical evidence suggests the results of the ecosystem function model are reasonable. Van's results suggest that zoning likely changed development density, but the effect on coarse woody debris and bluegill was less clear at the scale of a single lake. The study indicates that one-size-fits-all zoning is, in most cases, not effective in regulating housing growth and protecting the ecosystem functions of lakes at the same time within a heterogeneous landscape.
Van concludes that within a heterogeneous landscape zoning for protecting the ecosystem function of a lake only works under certain conditions. He will now further investigate other land management optionswith the goal of finding a strategy that is effective in protecting the ecosystem function of a lake.