Cities are urban ecosystems

by Abu Lido

 

Cities are urban ecosystems where humans, plants, animals and bacteria live together. They all interact and cohabit with non-living matter, pollution and gases transpiring from the Earth. Urban ecosystems cannot be compared to pre-industrial cities (urbes in Latin): the use of fossil fuels was a crucial element in the change process.

21 new projects have been financed in the United States since 1990 with the aim of acquiring useful data to understand how ecosystems work. A modern research that shows how obsolete the analysis of a city is when it comes to its various functional features. A urban ecosystem is more than the sum of the parts and by now nature doesn’t seem to live beyond the ring-roads any more.

Air in cities is a mixture of monoxide, water vapour and gases that the soil gives off: pollutants promote plant growth, and plants in turn cool the air but reduce visibility conditions on the roads, they may foster crime and slow down the winds that sweep away dust and exhaust emissions. Meanwhile politicians and administrators discuss whether to reduce the budget for the maintenance services of green areas, while tons of grapefruits, fertilizers, bread, preserved tomatoes and balsamic aromas are delivered to shops and stores by means of vans that increase CO2 emissions. Bacteria modifications continue endlessly and water sucked from aquifers is used at a rate of 200 litres per day per capita.

Studying all this means bringing together physicists, economists, biologists, forest rangers, sociologists and doctors, along with a systematic, uninterrupted and complete data collection. Understanding the urban ecosystem not only promotes new actions to tackle global warming, but it also changes the idea of environment and nature which now belong to us. Our imagination, already challenged by climate changes, will change when we learn new facts and connections not yet conceivable.

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