Urban ecology, sustainable spatial development and legislation

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Conf. univ. dr. ecol. Alexandru-Ionuţ Petrişor

Abstract of the book, by chapters

Chapter 1. General concepts of ecology

Ecology provides the theoretical background for perceiving and interpreting the “environment “,

including both physical and natural/biological environments, as a hierarchy of organized and

dynamic units with identifiable and quantifiable structural and functional properties. These units,

called ecological systems, consist of two closely related components, forming a whole: a biotic

(living) and an abiotic (lifeless) component. The func tions of ecological systems are energy and

matter flow and self-regulation, the latter providing dynamically for the spatial and temporal

continuity of the structure. Based on energy consumption, ecological systems evolve against

entropy: increase their inner diversity, acquiring more stability, interpreted as some regularity or

periodicity of the variation of factors, i.e. a status of regime. The study of ecological systems is

based upon elaborating their homomorphous models.

Chapter 2. Concepts of urban ecology

Urban ecology, branch that appeared in 1968, considers that human settlements, particularly the

urban ones, are ecological systems at the rank of ecosystems or complexes of ecosystems. The

essential difference from natural systems is the presence of the human species as dominant species,

subjected first to socioeconomic laws, and not to the biological ones, and of pollutants resulted from

human activities. Functionally, the urban ecosystem includes socioeconomic elements and

constitutes an energy parasite of natural systems.

Chapter 3. Environmental deterioration

Environmental deterioration is an “umbrella concept”, including all anthropic activities with

negative impacts on natural ecological system. The engine of this process is the exponential growth

of human population, paralleled by an increase of the human needs, which form, in Abraham

Maslow’s opinion, a hierarchy. Phenomena reunited under the name of “environmental

deterioration” are pollution – dysfunction (breaking) of biogeochemical cycles, loss of bio- and ecodiversity,

fragmentation of habitats, introduction of new species, genetic manipulations, execution

of ample works on streaming waters and other phenomena as well.

Chapter 4. Sustainable development

If the solution proposed in 1972 by the Club of Rome for problems related to environmental

deterioration, i.e. the “zero growth”, is an utopia, it becomes easy to understand a continued search

for a new solution until the concept of “sustainable development” was identified. This concept had

been defined theoretically in 1987, acquired a practical definition at the 1992 United Nations

Conference on Environment and Development, and is still re-defined nowadays. A new dimension,

i.e. the territorial one, had been added to its classical pillars – economic, social and ecological.

Paralleling the theoretical refining of the concept, pragmatic approaches involved the elaboration of

models of development: urbanistic, economic, mathematical etc. Sustainable development also

implies preserving natural systems through the institution of protected areas, in the spirit of longterm

thinking. Even though since 1987 sustainable development seemed to be the solution of

current environmental crisis, criticisms had been developed particularly with respect to the real

implementation of regulations supporting it.

Chapter 5. Sectoral ecological policies, environmental law and projects

Sustainable development has an obvious political character, involving the implementation of

environmental protection policies in sectoral development strategies and laws. This is why

environmental policies supporting it must translate into legislative changes. International, European

and national documents, both strategic and operational, related to sustainable spatial development

are analyzed, especially those regarding environmental protection, urban and regional planning, and

the institutional frame of implementing policies from these areas.

Chapter 6. Culture, urban and rural

Since urban ecology considers that human settlements are integrated in the hierarchy of organized

system, it implies also recognizing that ethno-cultural diversity is a component of biodiversity. In

this regard, it is important to look at differences between urban and rural, especially in a global

context, and analyze the impact of these differences on the relationship between man-dominated

systems and the natural ones. Their role cannot be neglected, especially when considering

sustainable development a particular type of ecological succession. The role of culture in this

framework had been underlined at the 2004 Ouagadougou Francophony Summit: cultural diversity

represents an economic growth factor.

Chapter 7. Ecological architecture

A recent concept, ecological architecture does not benefit yet upon a clear definition, as there are

two approaches in place: “green” (environmentalist) and sustainable architecture. The first one

represents the practice of increasing the efficiency of obtaining and using energy, water and

materials by constructions and their adjacent land, and reducing negative impacts of constructions

on human and environmental health by improving design, usage, maintenance and demolition

methods, whilst the latter concepts refers to the compliance of “green” architecture with the

principles of socioeconomic and ecological sustainability. In practice, the products of ecological

architecture consist of passivezero emissionsgreen/ecological/sustainable, etc. buildings.

Chapter 8. Conclusions

Even though the systemic approach was accepted in ecology since the period around 1990,

determining a transition of the discipline to the stage of systemic ecology, other disciplines did not

adopt the new conceptual models, especially in Romania. This inertia makes regional and urban

plans, instruments that should support sustainable spatial development, to be elaborated from a

sectoral and obsolete standpoint, with disastrous environmental consequences. A change of the

methodologies governing their elaboration, approval and implementation process is obviously a


Chapter 9. Conceptual delimitations

Through its multi- and trans-disciplinary character, ecology finds itself often “borrowing” the

language of other disciplines, while other disciplines use its own language. Consequently, there is a

need for clear conceptual delimitations of the terminology used in this book.Q

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