About us

Introduction

The UK Urban Ecology Forum is a network of urban managers, specialists, planners and researchers involved with the environment, biodiversity and nature conservation in urban areas.

Its mission is to:

  • Raise awareness
  • Stimulate research
  • Influence policy
  • Improve the design and management of urban systems
  • Push urban nature conservation up the social and political agenda

Our distinctive contribution is integrated thinking. Nature in cities crosses many specialist boundaries. The UK Urban Ecology Forum tries to reflect and express these specialisms, and the many and complex realities they represent. It is unique within the UK in the breadth of its agenda and the range of its membership. Our networking and multi-disciplinary approach is a source of new insights and their promulgation to a wider audience is the key role of the Forum.

The UK Urban Ecology Forum has evolved from the UK-Man and the Biosphere Urban Forum that was established in 1987. The Man and the Biosphere (MAB) initiative originated in the International Biological Programme and the “Biosphere” conference organised by UNESCO in 1968. The MAB approach tries to reconcile conservation with the rational use of natural resources and the maintenance of cultural values.

Its main work is:

  • Publishing discussion papers
  • Preparing comments on national issues and policies
  • Generating new concepts, guidelines and research
  • Organising conferences and seminars
  • Networking with other expert groups

The Forum awards the UK Urban Wildlife Award for Excellence to key demonstration projects, publications and individuals.

The Forum meets four times a year but much of our work is done through networking and in informal sub-groups. The Forum has an annual work programme with targets in order to maximise the contribution and commitment of our members, all of whom work in a voluntary capacity and have heavy professional workloads.

Members of the Forum come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from ecologists to academics and journalists, from NGOs to local authorities, government agencies and private consultancies, from those primarily concerned with conserving plants, wildlife and biodiversity to those who work with people and deal with human interactions with green space. Currently there are over 30 members of the Forum who collectively contribute to the international reputation of the UK as a centre of excellence for urban ecology.

UK Urban Ecology Forum
People and Nature Thriving Together

The UK Urban Ecology Forum is a diverse collective, representing city practitioners from the arts and sciences, design and engineering, academia and commerce, industry and politics, and from NGOs, local authorities, government agencies and private consultancies. From its multi-disciplinary base, the Forum’s members promote a framework for the creation of viable places for health and well-being in liveable cities and towns, where people and nature can thrive together.Overall AimUKUEF aims to promote the effective practice of urban ecology to benefit the health and well-being of the public, and the care and protection of nature in the UK and internationally. The climate emergency and biodiversity crisis underpin and are woven through all our programmes and activities.ObjectivesIt will promote the benefits to the public and to nature through:

  • Stimulating and supporting the formation of national and city-based urban ecology forums in partnership with others
  • Establishing and maintaining knowledge sharing networks to support the effective practice of urban ecology
  • Organising presentations and events that promote cross-sector and publicunderstanding of the social, cultural, economic and environmental outcomes of integrated nature-based solutions in the context of urban ecology
  • Influencing policy and practice through the generation and promotion of guidance, discussion papers and publications on themes related to urban ecology
  • Identifying and promoting good practice through a Bank of Good Ideas website
  • Undertaking any other relevant actions relating to the overall aim

Urban Ecology: Philosophy and Practice

Professor David Goode, University College London

Put very simply urban ecology can be defined as a multidisciplinary approach which puts ecology at the centre of the way we investigate, conceptualise and manage towns and cities. It brings together participants from a wide range of disciplinesconcerned with environmental decision-making in an urban context. Ecology underpins the whole approach which includes urban design and planning, together with socio-economic, cultural, medical and political aspects of sustainable development. It also recognises the crucial need to work closely with local people. The subject evolved very rapidly during the second half of the 20th century from a narrowly focussed academic discipline concerned with analysis and description of urban ecosystems, to a much broader set of activities that are directly involvedwith the way we live our lives. Understanding the fundamental ecology of cities is crucial for development of sustainable solutions. This involves ecological footprintanalysis of towns and cities and detailed studies of urban metabolism. Urban ecology reaches beyond processes within individual towns and cities to the impacts of urbanisation on the wider world. The global scale of plastic pollution is a good example. There are many more. The philosophy has changed radically from an emphasis on pure ecology to one which recognises the crucial role of ecology in providing solutions to major challenges facing humanity.The enormous challenges posed by climate change require a radical shift in the way that cities are visualised and managed. This will require new approaches of many kinds, in terms of both philosophy and practice. Ecology has to be seen as a major discipline alongside more traditional approaches such as architecture, engineering, planning and public health if we are to find effective long-term solutions. Ecologists will be central to the development of alternative scenarios atevery scale from metropolitan planning to the detailed design of local environmental services.There is now general agreement that green infrastructure provides a range of benefits that help to maintain sustainable conditions in the urban environment. These include provision of sustainable drainage systems and enhanced flood alleviation, local climatic amelioration, improved air quality, maintaining conditionsfor urban biodiversity, and providing green space for a variety of uses including the growing of food. There is also considerable evidence that green networks have an important role in maintaining people’s health and well-being (including mental health) by lowering stress levels and providing opportunities for exercise, including walking and cycling. The value of these ecological services (i.e. the benefits we get from nature) is particularly high for people living in towns and cities. New concepts developed by ecologists, such as Biophilia and Eco-urbanism, are now being adopted by architects and planners as a new mode of city living.If urban ecologists work with local people profound changes in public attitudes can occur. The rapid growth of urban nature conservation since the 1980s is a good example of a whole new philosophy of people and nature being developed and put into practice. The concept of National Park Cities is another. Forging links between ecology and the social sciences, and the arts, is already bringing great benefits. Local people are the key to success. Urban ecology has to be based on local initiatives to make real progress.*This brief summary draws on many detailed academic studies, together with radical new concepts and proposals made by practitioners over recent decades.Here are a few examples:

  • Boyden, S., Millar, S., Newcombe, K. and O’Neill, R. (1981) ‘The ecology of a city and its people: The case of Hong Kong, Canberra’: ANU Press.
  • Douglas, I. (2011) ‘The analysis of cities as ecosystems’. In: ‘The Routledge Handbook of Urban Ecology, Ed. Douglas, I. et.al., Abingdon.
  • Goode, D.A., (2000) ‘Cities as a key to sustainable development’. In: ‘Where next: reflections on the human future’. Ed. D. Poore. Kew.
  • Grimm, N.B., Grove, J.M., Pickett, S.T.A. and Redman, C.L. (2000) ‘Integrated Approaches to Long-Term Studies of Urban Ecological Systems’. Bioscience, 50: 571-84.
  • McDonnell, M.J., and Pickett, S.T.A. (Eds) (1993) ‘Humans as Components ofEcosystems’, New York: Springer-Verlag: 175-89.
  • McIntyre, N.E. (2011) ‘Urban ecology: Definition and goals’. In: ‘The Routledge Handbook of Urban Ecology’ , Ed. Douglas, I. (et.al.) 7-16.
  • Pickett, S.T.A., et.al. (2001) ‘Urban ecological systems: linking terrestrial ecological, physical, and socio-economic components of metropolitan areas’. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 32: 127-57.
  • Wackernagel, M. and Rees, W. (1996) Our Ecological Footprint: reducing human impact on the Earth. Philadelphia PA: New Society Publishers.