Resources, Infrastructure Systems and built Environments

Department of Civil & Structural Engineering

Ecological network analysis on intra-city metabolism of functional urban areas in England and Wales


Tan, L.M.; Arbabi, H.; Li, Q.; Sheng, Y.; Densley Tingley, D.; Mayfield, M.; Coca, D.


The UK has one of the world’s most urbanised societies where nearly 83% of the total population lives in cities. The continuing population growth could lead to increases in environmental pollutions and congestion within cities. The framework of urban metabolism uses an analogy between cities and ecosystems to study the metabolic processes within complex urban systems akin to natural biological systems. It remains as a challenge to fully understand the complicated distribution of resource flows within an urban network. In this paper, Ecological Network Analysis was applied to study the intra-city flows between economic sectors in 35 functional urban areas in order to investigate their respective metabolic relationships. The intra-city flows network of each area was also supplemented with the geographical distance between the workplace zones to study the impacts of spatial distribution on the density of resource flows. The metabolic systems were dominated by 64% of exploitative relationships with an average mutualism index of 0.93 and synergism index of 3.56 across all 35 areas. The consumption-control and production-dependency relationships revealed the hierarchical orders among the sectors resembling the pyramidal structure of an urban ecosystem. Network community classification emphasized the importance of inter-relationship within the organisation of each community class. The producer-type and consumer-type communities showed the tendencies of those sectors to cluster based on their respective hierarchical roles in the ecosystem. This work provides an insight into the wide range of intra-city ecological metabolic characteristics which can potentially expand to a multi-scale assessment of urban metabolism across the country.

Publication details

Publication type: 
Journal article
Awarded date: 
November 2018
Start page: 
End page: 

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