How can cities support sustainability: A bibliometric analysis of urban metabolism

Urban metabolism concerns the evaluation of how much urban ecosystems produce and consume resources. Such an assessment is now a critical perspective in understanding the manner in which city development affects local and regional environment. Research in urban metabolism is a relatively new and ever-evolving area that encompasses a multidisciplinary field and moves toward a combined natural and social science. This paper offers a verifiable and reproducible systematic literature review of sustainable urban metabolism, analyzing and scrutinizing 813 papers for co-occurrence of keywords. This review aims to answer two research questions: (i) what are the prevailing themes in urban metabolism and (ii) how have these themes measured the support of cities toward sustainability? Through clustering analysis based on bibliometric method, four different focuses and their main keywords were outlined. The four clusters are general concept, methodology, policy issue, and specific element clusters, and their core keywords are city, energy, relationship, network, sustainability, China, indicator, economy, country, recycling, disposal, and recovery. Urban metabolism themes have evolved from nutrient flows and individual element treatment concerning industrial ecology in the course of the past century to ecological views of complex urban networks. The taxonomy of themes and the analysis of their evolution lead to further research agenda on the general framework of urban metabolism toward sustainability.