Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 599–611 | Cite as

Comparative study of urban ecology development in the U.S. and China: Opportunity and Challenge



As human society has entered the century of the city, studies of urban ecosystems have shown a booming increase since the beginning of the 21st century. Urban ecology aims to fully understand the problems and find the solutions to sustainability challenges of an increasingly urbanized planet. As typical representatives of developed and developing nations, the U.S. and China are experiencing different urbanization processes. Yet the development of scientific investigations in the field of urban ecology in the two countries seems to have reached the same goal by different means. We compare the development of urban ecology in the U.S. and China in terms of related disciplines, main research fields, and hot topics. In general, American urban ecology connects tightly to a basic ecology research paradigm and trans-disciplinary study, while Chinese urban ecology emphasizes practical problem-solving but lacks sufficient theoretical and technical support. In the end, four key differences between American cities and Chinese cities are discussed, including urbanization stage, urban boundary and population, urban form and landscape, and urban metabolism and management. These differences present both challenges and opportunities for collaboration in urban ecological studies between U.S. and China. The collaboration between urban ecologists of the U.S. and China will contribute not only to the two countries’ cities but also to cities from both developed and developing countries.


Urban ecology, Comparative study China U.S 



The authors gratefully acknowledge funding by the Ministry of Science and Technology, China (2012BAC21B03), National Natural Science Foundation of China (41201598, 41371540), Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZZD-EW-16), and Xiamen Municipal Bureau of Science and Technology (35O2Z20130037). We would like to thank the two reviewers for their helpful comments and constructive suggestions. Special thanks to Valerie Gibson and Tianye Wei for English correction.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Lab of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXiamenChina
  2. 2.Xiamen Key Lab of Urban MetabolismXiamenChina
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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