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The integration of research into the design process is an opportunity to build ecologically informed urban design solutions. To date, designers have traditionally relied on environmental consultants to provide the best available science; however, serious gaps in our understanding of urban ecosystems remain. To evaluate ecosystem processes and services for sustainable urban design and to further advance our understanding of social-ecological processes within the urban context, we need to integrate primary research into the urban design process. In this article, we develop a road map for such a synthesis. Supporting our proposals by case studies, we identify strategic entry points at which urban ecology researchers can integrate their work into the design process.
Climatic change is anticipated to alter disturbance regimes for many ecosystems. Among the most important effects are changes in the frequency, size, and intensity of wildfires. Serotiny (long-term canopy storage and the heat-induced release of seeds) is a fire-resilience mechanism found in many globally important terrestrial ecosystems. Life-history traits and physiographic differences in ecosystems lead to variation in serotiny; therefore, some systems may exhibit greater resilience to shifting disturbances than others do. We present a conceptual framework to explore the consequences of changing disturbance regimes (such as mean and variance in fire severity or return intervals) to serotinous species and ecosystems and implications of altered serotinous resilience at local and regional scales. Four case studies are presented, and areas needing further research are highlighted. These studies illustrate that, despite the reputed fire resilience of serotiny, more fire does not necessarily mean more serotinous species across all systems in which they occur.
The origin of life is one of the most important but also one of the most difficult problems in science. Autocatalytic sets are believed to have played an important role in the origin of life. An autocatalytic set is a collection of molecules and the chemical reactions between them, such that the set as a whole forms a functionally closed and self-sustaining system. In this article, I present an overview of recent work on the theory of autocatalytic sets and on how this theory can be used to study the probability of emergence, the overall structure, and the further evolution of such systems, both in simple mathematical models and in real chemical systems. I also describe some (still speculative) ideas of how this theory can potentially be applied to living systems in general and perhaps even to social systems such as the economy.
Cities are implementing green infrastructure projects to provide ecosystem services such as storm water mitigation. The efficacy of these projects at providing services is rarely evaluated. Embedding research into project design provides a mechanism for both evaluation and development of the ecological knowledge needed to improve infrastructure for services provision. Ecologists must navigate the politics, economics, and social constraints of working in cities. Additional skills and practices are needed to develop new relationships and improve credibility, to define project roles, to identify new funding, and to integrate multidisciplinay knowledge. We examine a large-scale green infrastructure project that integrates hypothesis-driven experimental research and baseline monitoring with park design, implementation, and maintenance. Drawing on this case study, we recommend strategies to facilitate the inclusion of research ecologists in green infrastructure projects by enhancing the professional cer-tification process, establishing research ecologists as consultants, and integrating ecology and design in graduate programs.
To conserve species, we must first identify them. Field researchers, land managers, educators, and citizen scientists need up-to-date and accessible tools to identify organisms, organize data, and share observations. Emerging technologies complement traditional, book-form field guides by providing users with a wealth of multimedia data. We review technical innovations of next-generation field guides, including Web-based and stand-alone applications, interactive multiple-access keys, visual-recognition software adapted to identify organisms, species checklists that can be customized to particular sites, online communities in which people share species observations, and the use of crowdsourced data to refine machine-based identification algorithms. Next-generation field guides are user friendly; permit quality control and the revision of data; are scalable to accommodate burgeoning data; protect content and privacy while allowing broad public access; and are adaptable to ever-changing platforms and browsers. These tools have great potential to engage new audiences while fostering rigorous science and an appreciation for nature.