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Sustainability 2015, 7(5), 5211-5240;

The New Global Urban Realm: Complex, Connected, Diffuse, and Diverse Social-Ecological Systems

Department of Forestry & Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8008, Raleigh, NC 27695-8008, USA
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, 2801 Sharon Turnpike, Millbrook, NY 12545, USA
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Evolutivas, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
The Knowledge Hub for Rural Development, Wits Rural Facility, The University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag X420, Acornhoek 1360, South Africa
Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-5402, USA
Tishman Environment and Design Center, The New School, 79 Fifth Ave, 16th Fl., New York, NY 10003, USA
Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies, Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA 17022-2298 USA
Global Security Initiative, Arizona State University, P.O. Box 878409, Tempe, AZ 85287-8409, USA
Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Haidian District, Beijing 100085, China
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Received: 12 January 2015 / Revised: 7 April 2015 / Accepted: 10 April 2015 / Published: 28 April 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Urban Development)
Full-Text   |   PDF [920 KB, uploaded 28 April 2015]   |  


Urbanization continues to be a transformative process globally, affecting ecosystem integrity and the health and well being of people around the world. Although cities tend to be centers for both the production and consumption of goods and services that degrade natural environments, there is also evidence that urban ecosystems can play a positive role in sustainability efforts. Despite the fact that most of the urbanization is now occurring in the developing countries of the Global South, much of what we know about urban ecosystems has been developed from studying cities in the United States and across Europe. We propose a conceptual framework to broaden the development of urban ecological research and its application to sustainability. Our framework describes four key contemporary urban features that should be accounted for in any attempt to build a unified theory of cities that contributes to urban sustainability efforts. We evaluated a range of examples from cities around the world, highlighting how urban areas are complex, connected, diffuse and diverse and what these interconnected features mean for the study of urban ecosystems and sustainability. View Full-Text
Keywords: urbanization; urban theory; science of cities; socio-ecological systems urbanization; urban theory; science of cities; socio-ecological systems

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McHale, M.R.; Pickett, S.T.; Barbosa, O.; Bunn, D.N.; Cadenasso, M.L.; Childers, D.L.; Gartin, M.; Hess, G.R.; Iwaniec, D.M.; McPhearson, T.; Peterson, M.N.; Poole, A.K.; Rivers, L., III; Shutters, S.T.; Zhou, W. The New Global Urban Realm: Complex, Connected, Diffuse, and Diverse Social-Ecological Systems. Sustainability 2015, 7, 5211-5240.

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