Baltimore Ecosystem Study Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2012 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study: From Sanitary to Sustainable City
Pickett, Steward
Co-Authors: Steward Pickett, Ken Belt, Alan Berkowitz, Neil Bettez, Mary Cadenasso, Bess Caplan, Peter Groffman, Morgan Grove, Sujay Kaushal, Dave Nowak, Michele Romolini, and Austin Troy

Abstract: The Baltimore Ecosystem Study has focused on fundamental questions of ecosystem structure and function during its first two funding cycles. Building on this foundation, the project is evolving to address new modes of socio-ecological system change. This has led us to adopt a new overarching question: What are the effects of adaptive processes aimed at sustainability in the Baltimore socio-ecological system? This question is compelling because the established and growing interest in sustainability suffuses the communities, non-governmental organizations, and governments in the Baltimore region. Several community based and legally-adopted sustainability plans and structures now exist in our system. These are a new environment that directly and indirectly affects ecosystem structure and function. This new question requires us to identify, measure, and link bioecological and socio-economic adaptive processes in metropolitan Baltimore. The structures, characteristics, and interactions that make up the roster of adaptive processes are potential mechanisms of resilience. Resilience in the ecological sense as defined by Holling and colleagues, acknowledges that the Baltimore ecosystem is undergoing change, and the sustainability perspective adopted by people and institutions in Baltimore identifies a socially constructed set of goals toward which resilience can be shaped. The sustainability plans in the Baltimore region aim to correct the shortcomings of the sanitary city model that now exists. This is essentially the engineered metropolis that itself corrected the environmental and human health problems generated by the industrial city. The sanitary city model reflects a certain type of governance, and a strategy to segregate problems and solutions. Due to pressures of finance, age of infrastructure, desire for environmental justice, and improved understanding of the role of ecological processes in cities, a sustainable model of the city is emerging. BES employs theories in addressing the potential emergence of the sustainable city over time: 1) the metacommunity; 2) an urban form of the stream continuum concept, and 3) spatially explicit modeling of the locational choices of households and firms. These theories help link the adaptive processes in different natural science realms as well as in social realms of group identity, environmental economics, and institutional networking, for example. The poster highlights work in several of these realms and at the intersections between them.