Ecological integrity refers to the capacity of life, be it an organism or ecosystem, to organize, regenerate, reproduce, and evolve itself (Pimental et al. 2000). For example, a desert ecosystem can withstand long periods of drought yet retain its integrity such that when the rains come, the desert blooms and the organisms that comprise its ecology flourish (Pimental et al. 2000). This enables the desert ecosystem to withstand the next drought.
Ecosystem integrity is closely tied to health. An ecosystem can be degraded, but so long as it has the ability to survive (meaning to reorganize, regenerate, reproduce, etc.), its integrity remains intact. Ecocities support ecological integrity by maintaining essential linkages within and between ecosystems (www.ecocitystandards.org). For example, ecocities concentrate development of built space within a compact area and provide contiguous habitat and ecological corridors that enable natural systems to thrive.
Living sustainably requires preserving ecosystem integrity (Pimental et al. 2000). Therefore, to be in balance with nature, ecocities require that both citizens and their cities operate within the ecological carrying capacity of the bioregion in which they are located as well as the global ecological carrying capacity of Earth. Trade offers opportunities to exchange information and materials with others from places both near and far. However, it is important that trade activities do not compromise the ecological integrity of bioregions (both locally and abroad) through depletion of resources or accumulation of wastes.
Pimental, David, Laura Westra, Reed Noss. 2000. Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation, and Health. Washington DC: Island Press.
An ecosystem that is within its natural range of variability has adapted over millennia and can be expected to continue to do so.