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others interested in integrating social and environmental perspectives (Redman, Grove, and Kuby, 2004).

The detailed examination of a human-dominated urban ecosystem has led us to question how and to what extent the patterns and processes in human-dominated systems require qualitative changes to traditional ecological theory (Collins et al., 2000). So far, most ecologists working in cities have relied on the view of humans as disturbing forces and equated urban environments with extreme conditions. Assigning the residual values from traditional analyses to the human component of the ecosystem appears to work, up to a point, just as the Ptolemaic explanation of the solar system could be elaborated to fit empirical observations. Rather than elaborate on what may be fundamentally insufficient, at some point it is more effective to reconceptualize the theory to better explain the patterns. This strategy calls for integrating new elements into ecological theory. Certainly not all ecological theory must be refined, nor will all changes be radical, but we think that the pervasive presence and impact of humans on all global environments, not just urban ecosystems, requires one to be open to change.

This chapter reviews the interdisciplinary approaches of the Central Arizona–Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project toward the interaction of land use change, population, and environment. It continues with a review of two related projects: Agrarian Landscapes in Transition, which examines the relationship between urban growth and regional transformation, and Networking Urban Ecological Models, which integrates data from several public agencies to solve problems of mutual interest to academic and nonacademic researchers. This review is a stepping-off point for a brief discussion of our efforts to work with local land managers and public officials and a new project that is explicitly aimed at improving the application of science to decision making. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how these projects have led to a refinement in the conceptual approach being used and suggests how our observations direct us to areas in which ecological theory should be reexamined.


The overarching goal of the broader Long-Term Ecological Research program is to understand patterns and processes that underlie long-term changes in ecosystem structure and function. For an urban ecosystem, success in achieving this goal also hinges on understanding the complexities of intense human participation in the system—with attendant economic and social drivers, radically altered land cover, accelerated cycling of materials, and heretofore unresearched ecological impacts of a built environment (Redman, 1999a). The particular challenge for our project is to conduct a

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