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Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 795–807 | Cite as

A comparative gradient approach as a tool for understanding and managing urban ecosystems

  • Christopher G. BooneEmail author
  • Elizabeth Cook
  • Sharon J. Hall
  • Marcia L. Nation
  • Nancy B. Grimm
  • Carol B. Raish
  • Deborah M. Finch
  • Abigail M. York
Article

Abstract

To meet the grand challenges of the urban century—such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and persistent poverty—urban and ecological theory must contribute to integrated frameworks that treat social and ecological dynamics as interdependent. A socio-ecological framework that encapsulates theory from the social and ecological sciences will improve understanding of metropolitan dynamics and generate science for improved, sustainable management of urban ecosystems. To date, most urban ecological research has focused on single cities. A comparative approach that uses gradients within and between cities is a useful tool for building urban ecological theory. We offer five hypotheses that are testable using a comparative, gradient approach: (i) the current size, configuration, and function of larger metropolitan ecosystems predicts the potential trajectory of smaller urban areas; (ii) timing of growth explains the greatest variance in urban ecosystem structure and function; (iii) form and function of urban ecosystems are converging over time; (iv) urban ecosystems become more segregated and fragmented as populations increase; and (v) larger cities are more innovative than smaller cities in managing urban ecosystems.

Keywords

Comparative urbanism Gradients Spatial heterogeneity Convergence City size Neighborhood age 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a USDA Forest Service Joint Venture Agreement (08-JV-11221632-260), and by the National Science Foundation under awards BCS-1026865 Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER), and BCS-0948749 ULTRA-Ex: Land- and Water-Use Decision Making and Ecosystem Services along a Southwestern Socioecological Gradient.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher G. Boone
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elizabeth Cook
    • 2
  • Sharon J. Hall
    • 2
  • Marcia L. Nation
    • 3
  • Nancy B. Grimm
    • 2
  • Carol B. Raish
    • 4
  • Deborah M. Finch
    • 5
  • Abigail M. York
    • 6
  1. 1.School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Global Institute of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  4. 4.USDA Forest ServiceRocky Mountain Research StationAlbuquerqueUSA
  5. 5.USDA Forest ServiceRocky Mountain Research StationAlbuquerqueUSA
  6. 6.School of Human Evolution & Social ChangeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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