The work is part of an interdisciplinary project to study Boston's 'metabolism' — how elements are exchanged between natural and human systems. Phillips and his team are now focusing on atmospheric carbon — particularly carbon dioxide and methane. Next, they plan to look at carbon in the city's soils and water, and to track the flow of water, nitrogen and pollutants. “The goal is to understand the function of a major city,” Phillips says. (...)
Using ecological methods to tease apart those relationships can improve urban areas for people as well as natural systems, says Phillips. “The scientific study of cities should yield practical benefits in terms of making our cities more sustainable,” he says.