Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 57–65

Is there a need for a theory of urban ecology?


DOI: 10.1023/A:1009595932440

Cite this article as:
Niemelä, J. Urban Ecosystems (1999) 3: 57. doi:10.1023/A:1009595932440


Although urban ecosystems are governed by the same ecological “laws” as rural ecosystems, the relative importance of certain ecological patterns and processes differs between the two types of ecosystems. For instance, as compared to rural areas, urban habitats are usually more islandlike, more often represent early successional stages, and more easily invaded by alien species. All these features are results of the intense human influence on urban landscapes. The question then arises whether a distinct theory of urban ecology is needed for understanding ecological patterns and processes in the urban setting. The answer is no, because urban ecosystems can be successfully studied using existing ecological theories, such as the metapopulation theory. However, due to the intense human presence approaches that include the human aspect are useful in studying urban systems. For instance, the “human ecosystem model,” which emphasizes human impact by identifying social components with connections to ecology, is a useful approach in urban studies. This model, combined with the urban–rural gradient approach, forms an effective tool for studying key ecological features of urban ecosystems. Better understanding of these features would increase our ability to predict changes that land use causes in urban ecosystems, and would help to integrate ecology better into urban planning.

urban ecologytheoryurban planning

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and SystematicsUniversity of HelsinkiFinland