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

Christopher Boone, Elizabeth Cook, Sharon Hall, Marcia L. Nation, Nancy Grimm, Carol B. Raish, Deborah M. Finch, Abigail York

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)795-807
Number of pages13
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • City size
  • Comparative urbanism
  • Convergence
  • Gradients
  • Neighborhood age
  • Spatial heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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