Transformation of urban systems: towards sustainability

Aerial view of the Patapsco River in downtown Baltimore, illustrating the urban system. Credits: Will Parson / Chesapeake Bay Program

Urban areas are growing and changing rapidly in shape and function, with spillover effects on almost all areas of the Earth. The UN estimates that by 2050, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. In the next issue of the magazine npj Urban sustainability, published today in the new journal Nature Partner, a team of leading urban ecologists outlines a practical list for leading interventions, strategies and research that better position urban systems in meeting urgent sustainability goals.

Co-author Steward Pickett of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies explains, “Urban areas shape demography, socioeconomic processes, urban form, technology and the environment – both near and far. As the world becomes more urbanized, what we do in cities will be key to There is great potential, but it will require the integration of knowledge, methods and expertise from different disciplines to advance a global urban science that catalyzes discovery and innovation. “

Pickett has collaborated with Timon McPhearson, a researcher at the Cary Institute and a professor at New York School, and lead author Weiqi Zhou of the Research Center for Environmental Environmental Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. which first brings together the five leading frameworks of urban ecology. Their synthesis perfects our ability to understand urban systems, from cities to urban regions, facilitating the interdisciplinary science needed to achieve sustainability and improve the well-being of people and the environment.

The authors are international leaders in advancing the key frameworks of urban ecology explored in the paper, among them: human ecosystem, disturbances and extreme events in urban systems, resilience in cities and urban communities, dynamic heterogeneity and new ‘continuity urbanity’ describing interactions and flows in urban-rural-wild regions. Although these and other frameworks have been crucial in guiding the development of urban ecology, their synthesis addresses the need for greater conceptual comprehensiveness and unification.

Pickett explains, “Urban environmental science is a young discipline. Because of its youth, many different methods have been proposed to unify the discipline so that it can progress faster and be more accessible to urban designers, policymakers, architects and engineers. But these different conceptual tools, theories and approaches seemingly are quite different and it is seldom estimated that the overlap between them promotes a more complete and therefore more useful synthesis. “

Comprehensive global urban conditions provide content for frameworks: complexity, diffusion, connectivity, and diversity. Frames have been explored using the concept of ‘metacity’ which urban areas, to any extent, understand as parts that differ in the interaction of biophysical, social and technological components. Four case studies are detailed: extreme urban heat, the role of vacant land in urban areas, green rainwater infrastructure, and new urban development in China. For the latter two, the authors provide practical examples of how frameworks can serve as a checklist for assessing sustainability planning.

McPhearson comments, “By offering a strong interdisciplinary lens for urban systems, integrated frameworks can counteract the risk that issues of priority to special interests may be oversimplified, that opportunistically identified topics may be pursued to the detriment of strategic choices, or a strictly technological response to an immediate crisis. it can replace a more inclusive and systematic list of choices. “

The article is based on more than 25 years of Cary Institute leadership in researching human and natural systems. Pickett, a pioneer of American urban ecology, notes that “The Baltimore Long-Term Ecosystem Study has uniquely prepared this group for the synthetic contribution presented in this paper. The Cary Institute’s emphasis on collaboration and synthesis and the intellectual freedom it provides to achieve radical new directions in ecology, including deeply interdisciplinary, they are important catalysts for the work supported by this article. ”

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More information:
Weiqi Zhou et al., Conceptual frameworks facilitate the integration of transdisciplinary urban science, npj Urban sustainability (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s42949-020-00011-9

Provided by the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies

Citation: Transformation of Urban Systems: Towards Sustainability (2021, February 23) Retrieved February 23, 2021 from

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