URBAN ECOLOGY.SCIENCE OF CITIES by R.T.T. Forman - Review

 

With this title in febr.2014 a remarkable book appeared in Cambridge University Press, written by Richard T.T.Forman.ISBN: 9780521188241

Table of Contents
Foreword
Preface
 - 
Part I. Framework:
 1. Foundations - 
2. Spatial patterns and mosaics
 - 3. Flows, movements, change - 
Part II. Ecological Features:
 4. Urban soil and chemicals -  
5. Urban air - 
6. Urban water systems - 
7. Urban water bodies
 - 8. Urban habitats, vegetation, plants - 
9. Urban wildlife - 
Part III. Urban Features:
 10. Human structures - 
11. Residential, commercial, industrial areas - 
12. Greenspaces, corridors, systems - 
Epilogue


 

The Australian Ecologist Mark McDonnell wrote a introduction to this book worth reading. Here the text:

 

The term “urban revolution” was introduced by Gordon Childe in 1936 to highlight the powerful pro- cess of transforming agricultural societies to large complex urban centers. His model describes how com- munities, beginning around 9000 years ago, grew from tens or hundreds to thousands of people. In 3100 BC, Memphis, Egypt was the largest city in the world with over 30 000 residents. Today, the Cairo metropolitan area has over 17 million inhabitants and ranks 15th on the list of the world’s largest cities. Mega-cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Mexico City, and New York have over 20 million urban dwellers and continue to grow. The scale and complexity of the urbanization process origi- nally depicted by Childe has little resemblance to what is happening today.

In the short history of humans on our planet, the number, population size, spatial extent, rate of growth, and degree of environmental impact of cities are unprecedented. Today, cities and towns face a myriad of formidable environmental challenges concerning food production, energy, water, waste management, and pollution, as well as social challenges in regard to jobs, poverty, and human health and wellbeing. I propose that as a result of the current rate and magnitude of urbanization around the globe, we are on the cusp of a new “urban revolution.” The goal and rallying call of this revolution is “We Want Healthy, Liveable, Sustainable, and Resilient Cities and Towns.”

Modern cities have developed primarily based on the best planning, engineering, architectural, and design standards of the day and have been driven by societal and economic requirements and constraints. This resulted in cities having largely been built and managed as distinct entities where people, buildings, roads, rails, nature, water, energy, and money were studied, planned, and managed separately in professional, academic, and administrative silos.
Over the past 25 years, human settlements have increasingly been regarded and treated as complex ecosystems. Ecosystems can be simply defined as specific places on Earth along with all the organisms that live there and the associated nutrient and energy flows. The ecosystem concept implies a complex sys- tem of interacting components with discernible feed- backs between components. Thus, the vegetation in a city park can influence energy use in adjacent buildings and the wellbeing of the residents and workers in the neighborhood. Ecosystem boundaries are not fixed but depend on the questions or problems being addressed. Therefore, an entire city can be viewed as an ecosys- tem or its smaller components such as lake ecosystems, woodland ecosystems, and residential community ecosystems can be legitimate units of study and man- agement. Ecologists propose that a healthy ecosystem is one that is stable and sustainable while maintaining its organization and autonomy over time and its resil- ience to stress. Hence, a key tool to achieving the goals of this new “urban revolution” is the incorporation of ecological knowledge and principles into the manage- ment and creation of cities in order to develop healthy, liveable, sustainable, and resilient urban ecosystems.

In the 1980s, Richard Forman’s ideas and research on landscapes started another revolution, in this case a “landscape ecology revolution” in the way we see, manage, develop, and use our world. His groundbreaking papers and books on landscape and road ecology changed my view of the world and I don’t think I am alone. When I ride in a car, bus, or plane, or even when I look out the windows of very tall buildings, I no longer see only static views of vegetation, waterways, build- ings, and roads; I now see a dynamic, multidimen- sional landscape powered by the actions of humans and ubiquitous ecological processes. Richard has pro- vided us with the terminology, tools, and methods to describe and analyze the towns and cities in which we live and work; the farmlands that produce our food; the forest, lake, and mountain regions in which we take our vacations; and the remote regions of the world where humans rarely tread. His pioneering patchcorridormatrix, and subsequent land mosaic model of landscape structure has passed the test of time and has been adopted throughout the world in order to achieve more positive environmental outcomes. While the use of an ecosystem perspective appropriately represents cities as complex adaptive systems and provides the tools to assess levels of sustainability and resilience, the adoption of Richard’s land mosaic model provides the tools to create sustainable and resilient cities and towns.

Richard’s seminal book Land Mosaics summarizes the ecology of heterogeneous landscapes and includes comprehensive discussions of how landscape structure and composition (i.e., the land mosaic) affect the flows of water, nutrients, animals, wind, and people. A recent search of Google Scholar revealed that this book has been cited in over 4000 publications. Thus, Richard’s “landscape ecology revolution” has had far-reaching global effects that have influenced how ecological and social scientists conduct their research, how pol- icy makers and land managers conserve plants and animals, and how planners, designers, and landscape architects create more sustainable human settlements.

The current worldwide interest in creating sustain- able and resilient cities has resulted in an increasing call for locally relevant ecological information and princi- ples to guide urban development and management. Unfortunately, there has been a mismatch between the questions that planners, designers, and decision- makers are asking urban ecologists, and the questions that urban ecologists are asking to advance the science of urban ecology. Planners, designers, and managers are asking questions that are relevant to their day-to- day decision-making such as: How much green space is necessary to reduce the impacts of climate change? What design and construction techniques can be put into practice to minimize energy consumption? How much connectivity is required in an urban landscape to support diverse plant and animal communities? How can we design cities to improve human wellbeing? In contrast, most urban ecologists are conducting basic research designed to attain a better understanding of the structure and function of urban ecosystems.
Over the past 25 years, urban ecologists have pro- duced a large body of studies from cities around the world that provide important insights into how urban- ization is affecting ecological and social patterns and processes. However, the results of these studies have proven to be somewhat lacking when called upon to address the pressing questions from practitioners. This is because they have primarily been focused on single cities or single organisms and have been primar- ily funded and designed to advance the basic science of urban ecology, rather than to address the applied research questions being asked by practitioners. To be fair, there are urban ecologists working in cities around the world, especially in Europe, who have been actively addressing applied research questions. Recently, there have been calls within the discipline of urban ecology to bridge the gap between basic and applied urban ecol- ogy research by increasing the interactions between scientists and practitioners, by adopting a comparative approach to the study of cities and towns, and by identifying more general principles regarding the effects of urbanization on ecological patterns and processes.

As a result of this current state of affairs, there has been no urban ecology textbook published to date for students, planners, designers, and policy makers interested in the practical aspects of creating healthy, livable, sustainable, and resilient cities and towns. Of course that is until I began reading the book in your hand. I am very impressed with the content and approach of this volume and feel it will no doubt make a significant contribution to the future development of the study and practice of the discipline of urban ecology. As I have written in a recent history of urban ecology, Richard approaches the study and practice of urban ecology from a different perspective than the mainstream academics in the field.