Can the principle of Self-Organized Gradients Be Applied for Human Systems? A Case Study on Rural-Urban Interactions

Can the principle of Self-Organized Gradients Be Applied for Human Systems? A Case Study on Rural-Urban Interactions

Franziska Kroll Felix Müller 

Institute for the Conservation of Natural Resources, Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel, Germany

30 November 2011
| Citation



The ecological gradient approach states that self-organized processes produce patterns of concentration profi les that can be distinguished into structural and functional gradients. Throughout the undisturbed development of such systems, certain attributes are regularly optimized. These ‘orientors’ can be used to characterize the state of open systems. H. Bossel has introduced a set of ‘basic orientors’, which can be applied as indicators and target functions of any self-organized system. In this paper we combine the gradient approach with the basic orientor concept to test if the principles of self-organization can also be used to describe human entities. The case studies utilized are representing several concentration profi les between urban and rural landscapes in Europe. These spatial gradients, which have been arising from long-term development of cities and their hinterlands, are assigned to the basic orientors’ existence, effectiveness, freedom of action, security, adaptability, and coexistence. The results show that in all cases the demanded patterns can be found, thus there are functional parallels between self-organizing processes in ecological and human systems. The basic orientor approach can be used to explain these patterns, i.e. to clarify the utility of the outcome of self-organized processes in nature and society.


 self-organizing systems, basic orientors, ecological gradients, rural-urban gradient, urbanization.


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