An ecology for cities: A transformational nexus of design and ecology to advance climate change resilience and urban sustainability

Daniel Childers, Mary L. Cadenasso, J. Morgan Grove, Victoria Marshall, Brian McGrath, Steward T A Pickett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


Cities around the world are facing an ever-increasing variety of challenges that seem to make more sustainable urban futures elusive. Many of these challenges are being driven by, and exacerbated by, increases in urban populations and climate change. Novel solutions are needed today if our cities are to have any hope of more sustainable and resilient futures. Because most of the environmental impacts of any project are manifest at the point of design, we posit that this is where a real difference in urban development can be made. To this end, we present a transformative model that merges urban design and ecology into an inclusive, creative, knowledge-to-action process. This design-ecology nexus-an ecology for cities-will redefine both the process and its products. In this paper we: (1) summarize the relationships among design, infrastructure, and urban development, emphasizing the importance of joining the three to achieve urban climate resilience and enhance sustainability; (2) discuss how urban ecology can move from an ecology of cities to an ecology for cities based on a knowledge-to-action agenda; (3) detail our model for a transformational urban design-ecology nexus, and; (4) demonstrate the efficacy of our model with several case studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3774-3791
Number of pages18
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2015


  • Climate adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Design-ecology nexus
  • Ecology for cities
  • Urban design
  • Urban ecology
  • Urban resilience
  • Urban sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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