As global urban populations grow, green spaces in cities are under increasing pressure to provide urban habitat and perform important ecosystem services. While public natural areas are typically called upon to provide key habitat in cities, green spaces on private property make up large parts of the urban land base and provide important roles for habitat and ecosystem services that support city function. However voluntary strategies for encouraging ecological stewardship on private property in cities are not well studied. This paper accesses available literature, case studies, municipal and organizational reports, and first-person interviews to describe four emerging strategies for catalyzing voluntary private property stewardship in cities: (a) indirect incentives; (b) market-based certifications; (c) community-based initiatives; and (d) payments for ecosystem services. Each offers the potential to combine the individual actions of multiple urban landowners in order to optimize the landscape-scale benefits of these actions in a strategic way. Components, methods and drivers are identified for each model and examples are provided to illustrate their application. The challenge of scale in optimizing ecological benefits in cities, and the potential for institutional partnering on multi-parcel, private property stewardship efforts to generate both site-scale and landscape-scale ecological outcomes is discussed. Voluntary, urban ecological stewardship strategies offer a different set of solutions than regulatory models, and open a new land base that would otherwise be inaccessible for improving ecological function as cities change and grow.
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