Contemporary cities are expanding rapidly in a spatially complex, non-linear manner. However, this form of expansion is rarely taken into account in the way that urbanization is classically assessed in ecological studies. An explicit consideration of the temporal dynamics, although frequently missing, is crucial in order to understand the effects of urbanization on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in rapidly urbanizing landscapes. In particular, a temporal perspective highlights the importance of land-use legacies and transient dynamics in the response of biodiversity to environmental change. Here, we outline the essential elements of an emerging framework for urban ecology that incorporates the characteristics of contemporary urbanization and thus empowers ecologists to understand and intervene in the planning and management of cities. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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