Exploring the global scientific literature on urban metabolism

Oleksandr Galychyn, Elvira Buonocore, Pier Paolo Franzese

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12775/EQ.2020.031


Urban ecosystems can be conceptualized like living organisms supported by material and energy flows that allow the generation of ecosystem structures and functions and the production of goods and services. Urban metabolism accounts for the flows of materials, energy, resources, food, and people in cities, providing a framework for the study of the interactions between natural and socio-economic systems. In this paper, the global scientific literature on urban metabolism was explored to identify knowledge gaps and emerging research areas over the last decades. A bibliometric network analysis was implemented to generate maps based on network data of scientific publications displaying relationships among scientific journals, researchers, countries, and keywords. The total number of publications on urban metabolism from 1990 to 2019 resulted in 498 documents. USA and China resulted the first countries publishing on urban metabolism while among the journals, the Journal of Industrial Ecology and Journal of Cleaner Production resulted the first in the ranking. The co-occurrence network map of keywords showed that, over the last decade, the main focus of research on urban metabolism has shifted from environmental issues to environmental accounting and socio-economic aspects. Considering the importance of urban systems for the achievement of local and global sustainability goals, it is likely that the scientific literature on urban metabolism will continue growing over the next years. Being cities characterized by complex relationships between natural and socio-economic systems, it is desirable that future studies will explore the multidimensional features of urban metabolism through multi-criteria assessment frameworks.


Urban metabolism; VOSviewer; bibliometrics; social network analysis

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