SYMP 2-1
The evolution and future of urban ecological science

Monday, August 10, 2015: 1:30 PM
308, Baltimore Convention Center
Steward T.A. Pickett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY
Daniel L. Childers, School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Mary L. Cadenasso, Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA
Mark J. McDonnell, Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology, Melbourne, Australia
Weiqi Zhou, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Background/Question/Methods: Since 1997, the contrast between ecology IN and ecology OF cities has been used to emphasize the increasingly interdisciplinary approach to urban ecosystems.  Ecology IN focuses on terrestrial and aquatic patches within cities, suburbs, and exurbs that are analogs of forests, deserts, wetlands, oldfields, grasslands, etc.  The lands beyond the analog patch or ecosystem are taken as the boundary condition, and such external environments can be arranged as conceptual gradients of social and infrastructural drivers.  Ecology OF the city, some of which was done quite early via Man and Biosphere, aims to treat entire cities or landscape mosaics consisting of cities suburbs and exurbs as social-ecological systems.  Ecology OF is a more inclusive conception of urban ecosystems that incorporates biological, social, designed, and built components.

Results/Conclusions: These two complementary approaches have proven useful for framing intercontinental comparisons, clarifying the scales of research, and embracing social drivers and responses as part of urban ecology.  Thus the contrast between ecology IN and ecology OF represents increased complexity, moving from concern with biotic communities or fragmented ecosystems to inclusive social-ecological systems.  With growing practical and theoretical concern for urban sustainability, a third level of complexity in urban ecology has clearly emerged – ecology FOR the city.  While ecology FOR includes the concerns and knowledge generated by both ecology IN and OF, it acknowledges that researchers are a part of the system they study, and are in a position to help envision and advance the social goals of urban sustainability.  Ecology IN, OF, and FOR contrast in the disciplinary focus, the theory of spatial heterogeneity employed, the technology for representing system structure and change, the resulting classification of components of extensive urban mosaics, the scope and nature of application to sustainability, and key research questions.  The emergence of the ecology FOR the city is consonant with the goals of ESA’s Earth Stewardship Initiative to help ecologists engage with other specialists and urban dwellers to shape a more sustainable urban future.