A City is an Ecosystem

Courtney Humphries, reporting for the Boston Globe:

Cities may strike us as the opposite of “the environment”: As we pave streets and erect buildings, nature comes to feel like the thing you find somewhere else. But scientists working in the growing field of urban ecology argue that we’re missing something. A city’s soil collects pollutants, but it also supports a vast system of microscopic life. Water courses beneath roads and buildings, often in long-buried streams and constructed pipes. And city ecosystems aren’t static; they change over time as populations grow, infrastructure ages, and different political structures and social values shape them.

Seen this way, the city is a distinct form of “environment,” and an important one. Truly understanding how it works—and how it affects the millions of people who may live and work there—will mean studying the whole city as a living system, both its organisms and its pipes, roads, and landfills. As cities grow, maintaining clean air and water in a place like Boston may depend on how well urban areas support trees, plants, and microbes.

Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view. Truly wonderful the ecology of a city is.”