Thursday, December 1
10:00 am–11:00 am

Heterogeneity in Urban Ecology

Urban areas are understood to be extraordinarily spatially heterogeneous. Spatial heterogeneity—and its causes, consequences, and changes—are central to ecological science. The social sciences and urban design and planning professions also include spatial heterogeneity as a key concern; however, urban ecology, as a pursuit that integrates across these disciplines, lacks a theoretical framework that synthesizes the diverse and important aspects of heterogeneity. We present the concept of dynamic heterogeneity as a tool to explore how social and ecological heterogeneities interact and how, together, they serve as both an outcome of past interactions and a driver of future heterogeneity and system functions. To accomplish this goal, we relate heterogeneity to the fundamental concept of the human ecosystem. The human ecosystem concept identifies key processes that require operationalized models of dynamic heterogeneity in three process realms: the flow of materials, the assembly of urban ecosystem biota, and the locational choices humans make concerning land. We exemplify a specific dynamic model of heterogeneity in each of these realms and indicate a range of complementary statistical approaches to integrate the drivers and outcomes of dynamic heterogeneity across the three realms. We synthesize a hierarchical framework for a theory of dynamic urban heterogeneity, noting its complementarity to other major urban theories and general model approaches. We hypothesize that human actions and structures amplify the dynamics of heterogeneity in urban systems.



Steward T.A. Pickett, Ph.D., Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Steward Pickett, Ph.D., a Distinguished Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, New York, is an expert in the ecology of plants, landscapes, and urban systems. He received the Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in 1977. He Co-Directs the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, Long-Term Ecological Research project. His research focuses on the origin and consequences of ecological heterogeneity and the temporal dynamics of system change. He has pursued these interests in urban areas, the old-growth deciduous forests and post-agricultural fields of the Eastern U.S., and the riparian woodlands and savannas of Kruger National Park, South Africa. He has begun collaborating with colleagues on urban regional dynamics in China. He has produced books on ecological heterogeneity, humans as components of ecosystems, ecological conservation, the linkage of ecology and urban design, philosophy of ecology, and ecological ethics. He has served as President of the Ecological Society of America, and on the Board of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.