Ecology of the City as a Bridge to Urban Design

  • S. T. A. Pickett
  • M. L. Cadenasso
  • Brian McGrath
Part of the Future City book series (FUCI, volume 3)


This chapter summarizes the nature of ecological science that is necessary to support a dialogue with urban design. First, ecology, as a science, represents a dialog between the conceptual constructs about how the world works and the observations of the material world itself. Second, ecological science has changed over time, so that generalizations and data available now are often quite different from the knowledge available only a few decades ago. Third, ecological science is invested with rich metaphorical connotations which invite connections with design and with the social sciences. However, the specific models or technical knowledge about the structure and functioning of social-ecological systems are required to support substantive exchange between ecology and urban design. The chapter contrasts traditional ecological research embedded within cities with emerging ecological knowledge exposed by research and models that encompass the entirety of urban systems – summarized as ecology of the city. Along the way, key concepts needed for the dialog between design and ecological science – ecosystem, landscape, metamosaic – are defined and exemplified.


Ecological System Coarse Woody Debris Urban System Urban Ecosystem Patch Type 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for support of research that informed the analysis presented here. In particular, the Long-Term Research, SEES, CNH, and Ecosystem Studies Cluster have supported our research and interaction. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies supported a Cary Conference in 2007 which contributed to the intellectual network from which the insights reported here emerged. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. T. A. Pickett
    • 1
  • M. L. Cadenasso
    • 2
  • Brian McGrath
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.School of Constructed EnvironmentsParsons The New School for DesignNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.urban-interface.comNewarkUSA

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