Landscape and Ecological Engineering

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 17–25 | Cite as

Planning and design of ecological networks in urban areas

  • Maria IgnatievaEmail author
  • Glenn H. Stewart
  • Colin Meurk
Special Feature: Review Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Importance of Cities for post 2010 perspective


Urban ecological networks are defined differently in ecology, urban planning and landscape ecology, but they all have linearity and linkage in common. Early urban representations evolved from the constraints of deep ecological structure in the landscape to built elements that must work around natural linear obstacles—rivers, coastlines, dunes, cliffs, hills and valley swamps. Village commons were linked by roads. The Industrial Revolution led to accelerating urban growth, where the role of open space focussed on public health and transport. The Renaissance, Baroque and Picturesque movements accentuated networks in wooded parks, boulevards and sweeping riverine vistas. These provided a new aesthetic and sense of grandeur in the urban centres of European empires and later their colonies. Grafted onto this visual connectivity has been an awakened ecological understanding of spatial dynamics. The emergent notion of ecological corridor functionality provided support for green linear features, although initially this was based on untested theory. The idea of organisms moving along green highways seemed logical, but only recently has unequivocal empirical evidence emerged that demonstrates this functionality. Nevertheless, the main role of corridors may be to provide habitat rather than to act as connectors of nodal habitats. Most organisms can utilise stepping stones, and these may accommodate desired meta-populations while deterring pest movement. Swale drains and treatment wetlands provide riparian services and serve as biodiversity corridors. However, to most people the obvious function is visual—providing green fingers through what would otherwise be urban grey. The health benefits of these are have been demonstrated to be psychological as much as biophysical.


Connectivity Corridors Greenways Greenbelts Open space planning Stepping stones Landscape architecture 


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Copyright information

© International Consortium of Landscape and Ecological Engineering and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Ignatieva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Glenn H. Stewart
    • 2
  • Colin Meurk
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Landscape Architecture, Department of Urban and Rural DevelopmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment, Society and DesignLincoln UniversityLincolnNew Zealand
  3. 3.Manaaki-Whenua, Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand

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