Beyond urban legends: An emerging framework of urban ecology, as illustrated by the Baltimore ecosystem study

Steward T A Pickett, Mary L. Cadenasso, J. Morgan Grove, Peter M. Groffman, Lawrence E. Band, Christopher Boone, William R. Burch, C. Susan B Grimmond, John Hom, Jennifer C. Jenkins, Neely L. Law, Charles H. Nilon, Richard V. Pouyat, Katalin Szlavecz, Paige S. Warren, Matthew A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

286 Scopus citations


The emerging discipline of urban ecology is shifting focus from ecological processes embedded within cities to integrative studies of large urban areas as biophysical-social complexes. Yet this discipline lacks a theory. Results from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, part of the Long Term Ecological Research Network, expose new assumptions and test existing assumptions about urban ecosystems. The findings suggest a broader range of structural and functional relationships than is often assumed for urban ecological systems. We address the relationships between social status and awareness of environmental problems, and between race and environmental hazard. We present patterns of species diversity, riparian function, and stream nitrate loading. In addition, we probe the suitability of land-use models, the diversity of soils, and the potential for urban carbon sequestration. Finally, we illustrate lags between social patterns and vegetation, the biogeochemistry of lawns, ecosystem nutrient retention, and social-biophysical feedbacks. These results suggest a framework for a theory of urban ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • City
  • Coupled natural-human system
  • Patch dynamics
  • Social-ecological system
  • Urban ecosystem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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