LNAK10028U Urban Ecosystems: Structures, Functions and Designs

Volume 2013/2014
MSc Programme in Agriculture
MSc Programme in Landscape Architecture
Management and development of cities for sustainable living represent huge challenges. The continuous migration from rural to urban areas puts pressure on both the natural resources feeding the city, e.g. water, construction materials and energy, and on the infrastructure systems to distribute these supplies and remove waste materials, like pipes and roads. Moreover, the impacts of urbanisation will be exacerbated by climate change. Urban areas make an important contribution to green house gas emissions but at the same time cities are at risk from climate change due to the high concentration of economic, social and cultural activities. Accordingly, the city has to employ both mitigation strategies to reduce the city’s expansion and green house gas emissions and adaptation strategies to maintain the cities functionality and quality of life under changing climate conditions.

How can the natural resources in the city like the non-built areas, the vegetation, the water systems and the soil volume below the city be managed and developed to adapt cities to these changes? Which theories and methods can be used, and what is the role of environmental experts, landscape architectures and urban planners in this context?

The ambition of the teachers behind the course is to strengthen the competencies at our faculty regarding sustainability of cities, both at the scientific level and in the education of students. Relevant knowledge from disciplines such as forestry, agronomy and environmental chemistry needs to be transferred into the urban context, and integrated with landscape architecture and urban planning in order to develop better ways for managing and developing cities. This is attempted in a course where students and teachers from different disciplines develop a multidisciplinary approach to urban sustainability at the general level, and with specific focus on adaptation of cities to climate changes, i.e. changing precipitation patterns and elevated temperatures, and to loss of biodiversity.
Learning Outcome
This course provides an understanding of structures, functions and dynamics of urban ecosystems, and how these can be designed and managed to support sustainable urban development. Cities cause major pressures on the environment, and their development is as such critical for reaching sustainability. At the same time cities are exposed to a number of challenges that need to be mitigated. Attention is paid specifically to climate change adaptation and biodiversity support by means of green infrastructure design and management. Copenhagen is used as primary case area.
The course combines urban planning and landscape architecture with natural sciences such as soil hydrology, environmental chemistry and biology. The aim is to have students, teachers and external actors that represent different disciplines to exchange, apply and evaluate concepts and methods for sustainable urban development.

- To be familiar with theory and principles of urban ecosystem science
- To understand causes and effects of climate change in urban areas
- To be familiar with urban growth and dynamics in Denmark and globally
- To know main quantitative and qualitative components of the urban water cycle
- To be familiar with definitions of biodiversity and major factors controlling population stability
- To understand relations between natural processes (e.g. urban climates, the water cycle, biodiversity, soils) and urban form and function
- To gain an overview over case studies of sustainable urban water management and climate change adaptation, from city to site scale.

- To be able to transfer ecosystem concepts and principles to problem oriented studies.
- To be able to apply knowledge and methods for the analysis and design of sustainable urban ecosystems.

- To work in multidisciplinary groups and present results and knowledge to other students and external actors.
- To undertake a problem oriented study, design solutions and make evaluation
- To acquire in-depth knowledge on specific aspects of urban ecosystems structure and function in an independent manner.
- To reflect upon and discuss the value systems that underlie structure and functioning of various urban ecosystems.
A compendium and essential papers and book chapters will constitute the course textbook. Further literature will be recommended during the course in connection with specific themes.
Lectures, exercises and seminars will fall within the following general areas: The course consists of ca. 15 lectures, two compulsory exercises, paper presentations, a full day workshop, a full day excursion and a group project. Lectures, exercises and paper presentations will deal with the following general themes: global and local grand challenges to cities, urban ecosystem services, urban water systems, stormwater management, stormwater quality and treatment options, urban heat island and urban climate, biodiversity, and planning law, methods for urban ecosystem analysis and design, and good practice case studiesThe lectures will introduce the knowledge to deal with these issues. Supplementary exercises introduce methods for urban ecosystem analysis and design. Paper presentations provide an opportunity to familiarize oneself in more depth with selected topics. Students will work in groups on a project to develop solutions to climate change adaptation of cities, with emphasis placed on the sustainable management of urban water in a changing climate. A combined sewer catchment in Copenhagen will serve as case area. Representative authorities from Copenhagen will present the case and respond to students' work. Thus a level of general knowledge is ascertained through lectures, exercises and paper presentations, while the group projects provide an opportunity for in-depth problem based learning.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Colloquia
  • 18
  • Exam
  • 10
  • Excursions
  • 6
  • Guidance
  • 32
  • Lectures
  • 20
  • Practical exercises
  • 10
  • Project work
  • 100
  • Theory exercises
  • 10
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination, 25 minutes under invigilation
The oral exam takes 25 minutes. It consists of a short presentation of the group project followed by questions on the project. In addition, students will be asked questions related to lectures and exercises during the course.
Exam registration requirements
The group report and two exercises must be submitted to be allowed to participate in the final examination
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Flere interne bedømmere
Criteria for exam assesment

Weight: Individual oral exam: 100%
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