How Urban Ecology Works And Why A True Definition Matters

Posted by Ecogardens

 How Urban Ecology Works And Why A True Definition Matters | The overuse of certain terms diminishes their meaning. In order to understand how urban ecology works, we must understand what it means.

Many people have used the term “urban ecology” in many different ways, but in order to truly improve the ecosystems inside our cities, we need to settle on a streamlined definition.

Ever noticed how if you say something enough, the sounds start to lose meaning?

Try it. Say your own name over and over again. Guaranteed, after no more than 30 seconds, you’ll start to think, “Huh. Well, that’s a weird, pointless sound. Wonder what Mom and Dad were thinking?”

Buzz phrases such as sustainable, green and organic have suffered a similar fate: overuse sliding right into meaninglessness. Ditto conservation, energy efficiency, blah blah blah.

Oh, and urban ecology, of course.

Maximizing Meaning to Understand How Urban Ecology Works


Now, we’re not saying these terms don’t have meaning. They do. Deeply important meaning.

But when people who don’t truly understand what they mean use them willy-nilly, they start to lose much of the value that once imbued them and gave them significance in the first place. Or they see only the most superficial implications of a very deep, complex and serious topic.

At Ecogardens, we don’t plan to let that happen. Let’s tackle how urban ecology works, what it means and why it’s so dang important today.

To Understand How Urban Ecology Works, We Must Know What It Is


How Urban Ecology Works And Why A True Definition Matters | Definitions of urban ecology abound, but that makes it more confusing to understand what it truly means.

In an effort to address a massive topic, humanity has taken many approaches to urban ecology.

Wikipedia defines it as “the scientific study of the relation of living organisms with each other and their surroundings in the context of an urban environment.”

Wilfried R. Endlicher and colleagues, in their paper “Urban Ecology – Definitions and Concepts,” define it as “the study of ecosystems that includes humans living in cities and urbanizing landscapes.” 

So which is it? Urban environments only, or urbanizing ones as well? Does it include humans or not? Questions like these have led the scientific journal Urban Ecology to conclude: “Because of its interdisciplinary nature and unique focus on humans and natural systems, the term ‘urban ecology’ has been used variously to describe the study of humans in cities, of nature in cities, and of the coupled relationships between humans and nature.”

That’s a bit closer.

We want to offer an even more precise definition of how urban ecology works, and how we should think about it.

A Comprehensive Look at Urban Ecology


How Urban Ecology Works And Why A True Definition Matters | A true definition of urban ecology must encompass activity of human and non-human processes alike.

To successfully study and pursue a healthy urban ecology, we must view it from the lens of humans, non-human organisms, human processes and non-human processes. 

One of the most comprehensive approaches to urban ecology is one published in the journal Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. It posits that we must conceptualize urban ecology in, of and for the city.

The first sees urban ecology as disparate patches of non-human space within metro areas. The second sees the entire city as an ecology in its own right. The last and best paradigm “takes the urban ecosystem as a social–ecological system in which scientific knowledge is integrated with decision‐making dialogs and processes of all sorts.”

In non-science-nerd speak, this essentially means that it transforms urban ecology from an idea of something that “happens” in the built environment to something we can inform without choices every day.

So our definition of how urban ecology works?

We hold that urban ecology is the study and implementation of how we can create healthy dynamic relationships between people, wildlife, plants and infrastructure – but this only works if we do.

Humanity must take a long view, transforming current infrastructure and creating new systems that steward the health of all organisms inside urban and urbanizing spaces.

Luckily, that’s exactly what we do. Want to learn more? We invite you to get in touch with us here at Ecogardens today.





Topics: Urban Ecology

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