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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

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Bronx Queens Expressway / DLand Studio via Architect Magazine

For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at info@asla.org.

Sea ChangeArchitect Magazine, 3/17/14
“Susannah Drake’s unconventional path out of architecture school inspired her to establish this niche. A licensed architect and a licensed landscape architect, she graduated with master’s degrees in both disciplines from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.”

Brooklyn Bridge CrossroadsThe Architect’s Newspaper, 3/19/14
“After five years of study, meetings, and schematic designs, however, accessing the Brooklyn Bridge will soon be improved under a plan to revamp the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area streetscape, encompassing Tillary Street between Cadman Plaza West and Prince Street and several blocks of Adams Street, with widened sidewalks, improved bike lanes, and increased landscaping.”

Born AgainThe Architect’s Newspaper, 3/24/14
“In 2001, an electrical fire ravaged St. Louis’ National Memorial Church of God in Christ, destroying all of the historic structure except for its perimeter walls. Rebuilding the interior from scratch was not possible. Instead, as part of a broader plan to revitalize the Grand Center neighborhood, a local nonprofit hired New York–based Gluckman Mayner Architects with Michael Van Valkenburgh to help local architects John C. Guenther and Powers Bowersox resurrect the ruins.”

How to Fix New York City’s ParksThe New Yorker, 3/28/14
“Park equity is a relative newcomer to the roster of issues that New York City leaders must have a position on. The issue gained relevance last year, after State Senator Daniel L. Squadron introduced legislation, still before the state senate, that would take twenty per cent from the budgets of the ‘well-financed conservancies’ and redistribute it to poorer parks, matching these ‘contributing parks’ to ‘member parks.’ De Blasio endorsed the bill then but stopped short of reiterating his support on Friday, instead referring to the idea as creative.”

Predicting Future Biodiversity under Climate ChangeThe Guardian, 3/28/14
“They developed a model to predict future biodiversity as a result of changes to the underlying productivity of foundational tree species with global climate change. Their study drew upon many intersecting fields of study including community ecology, biogeography, and genetics. With these tools, they asked how climate change will alter the productivity of foundational species.”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper-Halpin, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator.

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Global Forest Watch

Global Forest Watch, a new $25 million dollar, web-based tool — which was created through a partnership of the World Resources Institute (WRI), ESRI, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Google, and a slew of other environmental groups — aims to provide a “near-real time” view of deforestation (and reforestation) around the world. According to data from Google and the University of Maryland, the world has lost 2.3 million square kilometers of trees from 2000 to 2012 from logging, diseases, and storms. BBC News tells us this is the equivalent to 50 football fields of trees being lost “every minute of every day over the past 12 years.” But during the same time frame, about 800,000 square kilometers of new forest were also planted. Still, this means the world has lost forest cover equal to the size of Mongolia in little more than a decade. The world can’t keep going at this rate given only about 15 percent of the planet’s original forest cover now remains.

Since the late 1990s, WRI has led the development of the forest watch service, which “unites satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing to guarantee access to timely and reliable information about forests.” The program uses more than half a billion high-res images from NASA’s Landsat program, which are organized with new algorithms created by the University of Maryland, and then made available for easy online access thanks to the cloud computing power of Google’s Earth and Maps engines. BBC News writes that high-res images of global tree loss and gain are updated annually while data on tropical forests is updated monthly.

The program’s ability to crowdsource information is particularly interesting. Campaigners and local communities can also submit data, pictures, and video on the ground. This picks up on an existing trend: “In Brazil, the Paiter Surui people are already using smart phones and GPS software to monitor illegal logging.”

The watch service will visualize protected areas, as well as concessions for logging, mining, and palm oil. For example, any user can look up whether a given area is protected or whether a company has the right to take down the trees there. Policymakers and regulators can now point to the map to see if laws are being followed on logging in vulnerable areas. Multinational companies like Nestle say it will enable them to better track where they supply palm oil and other ingredients. And sustainable forestry companies can better prove their products are coming from sanctioned places. Dr. Andrew Steer at WRI said: “Global Forest Watch is a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests. From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.”

The world no longer has to rely on guesstimates. As Rebecca Moore, engineering manager with Google Earth, explained to Reuters: “With the exception of Brazil, none of the tropical forest countries have been able to report the state of their forests. Now it will be possible to have near real-time updates of the state of the world’s forests, open to anyone to use.”

The trick will be getting out some final kinks, writes The Christian Science Monitor. Critics of the program say it currently can’t distinguish between forests and industrial plantations, a major problem given rows of palm trees shouldn’t really be counted as a forest, given these mono-cultures provide very few ecosystem services.

Also worth reading is “Networking Nature: How Technology Is Transforming Conservation,” a phenomenal article in the past issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. Conservation scientist Jon Hoekstra gives us many reasons to be optimistic about the power of new technologies. “Conservation is for the first time beginning to operate at the pace and on the scale necessary to keep up with, and even get ahead of, the planet’s most intractable environmental challenges. New technologies have given conservationists abilities that would have seemed like super powers just a few years ago.”

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Birds of a Feather

Flock together. This proverb is very much rooted in nature given single species of birds frequently form flocks. Ornithologists have discovered that birds flock to protect themselves from predators, take advantage of choice foods, raise their profile among females ready to mate, or aerodynamically maximize wind currents. Some species’ flocks also form amazing murmurations, undulating swarms that ebb and flow.

To further examine this wonder of nature, artist Dennis Hlynsky, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, started filming the individual flight paths of birds to discover the broader patterns.

This Is Colossal tells us: “Hlynsky first started filming birds in 2005 using a small Flip video recorder, but now uses a Lumix GH2 to record gigabytes of bird footage from locations around Rhode Island. He then edits select clips with After Effects and other tools to create brief visual trails that illustrate the path of each moving bird.”

Here we see swallows:

And crows:

Then starlings:

Hlynsky has also looked at bird species out of the sky, like these ducks moving through the water. He writes: “Ducks are quite heavy… one can see by the paths they make they are sliding as much as paddling. This was shot at the Linesville, Pennsylvania, fish hatchery. It was an experiment aimed at the fish, but the mallard ducks were very aggressive.”

While the videos are clearly mesmerizing, they will also help ornithologists better visualize mass bird behavior. Slate writes, “information on flight behavior is valuable for field identification.” Up until recently, collecting large amounts of flight path data had been too onerous.

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Tree Wood / Tochihiro Oki Architects

For millennium, designers of our built and natural environments have positioned the viewer in nature, setting benches in just the right spots with gorgeous vistas, or even creating pavilions or pagodas that offer both a respite from the world and a vantage point for engaging with it. Contemporary landscape architects and architects are creating singular platforms for experiencing nature. In these examples, the biophilic platforms are as appealing as the surrounding nature.

Japanese architect Tochihiro Oki created Tree Wood for last year’s “folly” competition in Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, New York. With this project, a simple wood frame set amid the forest looks over a grove awaiting the visitors’ discovery. Inside, the visitor is enveloped by the trees but also the skeletal frame made of 2 x4 planks held together with studs and nails.

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Tree Wood / Tochihiro Oki Architects

A chandelier sits at the top of the structure, creating the sense that one is in a room.

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Tree Wood / Tochihiro Oki Architects

Speaking to DesignBoom, Ohn Hatfield, juror and executive director of Socrates Sculpture Park, said Tree Wood “blurred lines and definitions, eliciting bewilderment, consternation, aesthetic pleasure,” adding that it “performs this feat by interweaving our built environment with nature’s chaos, setting in motion a dialogue, argument and narrative.”

Another example, Viewpoint, created by the Finnish Institute in London and the Architecture Foundation, is a floating platform on Regent’s Canal in Camley Street Natural Park, London. Designed by Finnish design firm AOR, the floating pavilion provides a way to bring visitors up close to London’s central nature reserve and the rich urban wildlife found there.

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Viewpoint / The Finnish Institute in London, Architecture Foundation

ArchDaily writes: “The inspiration for Viewpoint comes from the rocky islets and islands of the Nordic. For Finns, these islands are places of sanctuary, to relax the mind and get away from hectic city life.”But the platform’s actual form was also inspired by the simple, temporary structure created by fishermen and farmers. In Finland, these triangular structures are created out of tree branches, moss, and leaves.

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Viewpoint / The Finnish Institute in London, Architecture Foundation

Viewpoint seems to be a natural draw for those walking through the park. Visitors are likely to see Daubenton’s bats, whooper swans and the elusive Kingfisher.

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Viewpoint / The Finnish Institute in London, Architecture Foundation

The structure will be used by the London Wildlife Trust for educational programs for kids. Special triangular openings are set at different heights, giving kids of all ages a special view into the canal and the wildlife that it attracts.

Lastly, Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel, an old fort in the Netherlands has been redesigned into a new kind of viewing platform for nature, except this one takes the visitor deeper into the ground for a new perspective. The fort is a national monument dating to 1794 and was part of the military defense line that enabled “intentional flooding,” to protect one of the inundation locks, writes RAAAF and Atelier de Lyon in Landezine.

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Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel / © Rob ‘t Hart

Sculptured grassy steps lead the visitor down into the lock, which is surrounded by trees. It has become a major attraction in the “New Dutch Waterline,” says the design firms.

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Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel / © Rob ‘t Hart

The new design, commissioned by the city of Culemborg and the Foundation Werk aan ‘t Spoel, is inspired by the old infrastructure but forges something new from it.

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Fort Werk aan ‘t Spoel / © Rob ‘t Hart

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Transects, University of Pennsylvania

Transects: 100 Years of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the School of Design of the University of Pennsylvania by Richard Weller and Meghan Talarowski, Associate ASLA, celebrates the transect of time: 100 years of people, events and ideas that have shaped the department. What began as a series of lectures in 1914 on landscape design by George Burnap, landscape architect for the United State Capitol, has grown into an internationally-renowned design program. Recognized in 2010 at the Barcelona Biennial as the best landscape program in the world, the department today hosts a diverse collective of practitioners and students from all over the world dedicated to investigating the implications of a rapidly developing world.

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Off the Reservation: A Seed for Change / Meghan Storm (2012)

Transects follows a narrative and illustrative timeline of the program’s development. A striking theme emerges: the continuous effort to remain creative, experimental, fluid and competitive while establishing a critical design dialogue across the international community. Robert Wheelright, a founding member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), established the first official landscape degree program at Penn in 1924. He acknowledged “the complexity of the problems which the landscape architect is called upon to solve”, involving a knowledge of engineering, architecture, soils, plant materials, ecology, etc., combined with aesthetic appreciation.”

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A country estate by L.B. Ambler, Jr. (1931) / University of Pennsylvania Bulletin

Ian McHarg, who became chair in 1957, left an indelible mark on the program and the profession when he broadened the department’s scope to include a regional planning component. McHarg emphasized the need to address environmental concerns within large-scale planning projects using practices beyond the bounds of traditional landscape architecture and urban planning. His interest in mapping, layering, and analyzing features such as geology, hydrology, and land form produced decades of research studies and design projects. His belief in the responsible stewardship of nature, outlined in his seminal work, Design with Nature, remains the profession’s raison d’etre. In 1990, he became the first landscape architect to receive the National Medal of Arts.

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The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania. (Col. 122).

Since McHarg enacted that major shift, the program has expanded to explore new directions in urbanism, infrastructure, cartography, representation, theory and process. Over the past decade, the focus has increasingly become urban design in the global community. As chair, James Corner, ASLA, emphasized the importance of training students such that they “could work not only with traditional forms of landscape and public space, but also become sufficiently competent to help orchestrate the complex ecologies of the city, including built form and infrastructure.” Students participate in real world studios in both the greater Philadelphia region as well as around the world in places like Brazil, Morocco, and Singapore. They analyze the ecological as well as the cultural, political, and economic systems impacting these sites.

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Tempelhof Wasserpark / Johanna Barthmaier (2011)

Today the program appears poised to undertake bold new tasks. Richard Weller became chair this past year, inheriting 100 years of design innovation. Under his direction, the department is building a research platform to apply design intelligence to landscapes of critical biodiversity, which are under pressure from rapid urbanization. Weller envisions landscape architects, armed with “the skills of the planner, the politician and the artist,” leading the process by which nations can reach the goals of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. He shares the following hope: “McHarg called it stewardship, but the world should come to know it as simply landscape architecture.” The transect continues.

Read the book.

This guest post is by Shannon Leahy, Master’s of Landscape Architecture graduate, University of Pennsylvania, and former ASLA summer intern.

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For more LA in the News, check out LAND, ASLA’s newsletter. If you see others you’d like included, please email us at info@asla.org.

Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in the World’s Citie
sYale e360, 1/6/14
“A few years ago in Baltimore County, Maryland, environmental staffers were reviewing a tree-planting proposal from a local citizens group. It called for five trees each of 13 different species, as if in an arboretum, on the grounds of an elementary school in a densely-populated neighborhood.”
 
What’s the Big Idea? Debating the Future of a Great Urban Park  – The Huffington Post Blog, 1/7/14
“This is an exciting time for landscape architects, urban planners, building architects, municipal officials and other professionals involved with urban parks – they’re being challenged and inspired to be more innovative, think more holistically and delve more deeply, for example, into the interplay between natural and cultural systems.”

Unveiled > Colorado Avenue Esplanade, The Architect’s Newspaper, 1/7/14
“The City of Santa Monica recently green-lighted construction on the $10.7 million Colorado Esplanade streetscape project, designed to improve public access to the Santa Monica Pier and provide pedestrian links from the soon-to-arrive Expo Light Rail line. Work will commence next year, and the light rail is scheduled to arrive by 2016.”

Is Horticulture a Withering Field?, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/7/14
“Coming from image-conscious professionals who prefer to gush about the beauty of flowers and the joys of growing vegetables, the words were downright shocking: ‘Horticulture is under siege.’”

Farm AidThe Architect’s Newspaper, 1/8/14
“In the name of urban renewal, Anaheim tore out most of its historic downtown decades ago. Where Orange, a neighboring town, restored its historic town center and parlayed it into a magnet for restaurants, shops, entertainment, and the local creative class, Anaheim replaced its historic center with a bland mix of modern office towers.”

Redesigning City Streets with a Mobile PhoneGOOD, 1/9/14
“Key to the Street is a cloud-based service that allows anyone with a mobile device to participate in the design of public spaces. The main focus is encouraging more people to walk—the cheapest and easiest way to improve one’s wellbeing.”

These articles were compiled by Phil Stamper, ASLA Public Relations and Communications Coordinator

Image credit: Colorado Avenue Esplanade / Peter Walker and Associates

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According to a 2008 article by University of Virginia landscape architecture professor Elizabeth Meyer, FASLA, published in the Journal of Landscape Architecture, the guiding principles of sustainable landscape design are “ecological health, social justice, and economic prosperity.” While these are important, unfortunately, designers can overlook the “beauty of place and the importance of aesthetics” in these sustainable works, to everyone’s detriment.

This idea served as the basis of a session at the 2013 ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston, moderated by Thomas Woltz, FASLA, Nelson Byrd Woltz, with Bill Madden, ASLA, Mikyoung Kim Design and Christine Ten Eyck, FASLA, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects.

Each presented projects that not only upheld the fundamental principles of ecologically-sound design, but were also simply beautiful places. As Woltz said, the designers were there to “re-introduce the idea of beauty into the discussion of sustainability.” The firms shared similar design philosophies, which were defined by Woltz as the “link between the hand of making, the mind, and the heart.” But he added that “beauty often comes from the heart.”

Designing with an eye to the beautiful and the sustainable can only serve to strengthen the sense of place and promote a sense of stewardship of a landscape. But that means that the static beauty of the objectified landscape must be replaced with an embrace of dynamic beauty, one that celebrates all aspects of landscape, including 100-year storms and climate change.

Madden explored how Mikyoung Kim Design integrates beauty into how they design landscapes. Whether revitalizing the ChonGae Canal in Seoul, Korea, which embraces rainwater as a dynamic design element and draws crowds of all ages every day, or designing a fence in Massachusetts that sits lightly on the land but was inspired by photography and natural form, ecological principles blend seamlessly with beauty.

The ChonGae Canal (see image above) is an “artistic, expressive means to support the idea of water being brought back to Seoul,” said Madden.

Woltz presented projects by Nelson Byrd Woltz, all of which were conceived with a blending of beauty and collaboration with scientists, “revealing hidden ecologies.”

From a small townhouse’s backyard in New York City — which was designed around the narrative of the home as refuge and a nest, creating habitat for local birds — to the very large scale Orongo Station Ecological Restoration in New Zealand, sustainability is in action. But he added that the hand of the designer is evident. He believes this intentionally-artificial aspect of the project will ensure Orongo’s wetland isn’t drained again.

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Ten Eyck spoke of her work, stating that she is “profoundly impacted by the absence and presence of water” in the southwest, where she both lives and practices.

Her design for the Belo Center for New Media at the University of Texas at Auston cleans and conserves water and creates wildlife habitat within a beautiful place of refuge on a busy campus.

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Her Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix, Arizona, integrates beautiful and sustainable design within the historical context of the site.

Designing only to meet the metrics of sustainability will only get us so far. Beauty “reinforces our commonality,” said Woltz. With this commonality, we can achieve the ultimate goal, which is a deeper, more responsible stewardship of our beautiful and sustainable landscapes.

This guest post is by Heidi Petersen, ASLA 2013 intern and Master’s of Landscape Architecture candidate, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).

Image credits: (1) ASLA Professional General Design Award. ChonGae Canal Source Point Park: Sunken Stone Garden, Seoul, Korea. Mikyoung Kim Design / Taeoh Kim, (2) ASLA 2010 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award. Orongo Station Conservation Master Plan. New Zealand / Nelson Byrd Woltz, (3) University of Texas at Austin landscape / Ten Eyck Landscape Architects.

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Can you imagine a Halloween without bats? Unfortunately, that’s a possibility given 5.7 million bats have died in recent years from white-nose syndrome along the eastern United States, a drop of about 80 percent. To come to their aid, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has created a great overview and infographic about these maligned, misunderstood animals.

They tell us that “bats are not birds, they are not giant insects, and they are not flying rodents. They do not build nests. They will not breed like rabbits and rapidly infest your house. They are not blind. They are not flying, disease ridden vermin searching out unsuspecting humans to infect.”

In fact, they are the only mammal that can fly. As we are mammals, too, we share common traits. The bones in their wing are similar to the ones in our hands. Their wing skin is similar to the skin of our eyelids.

Bats are incredibly diverse, making up one-quarter of all mammals. There are huge differences in size among species, from the bumble-bee bat to large flying foxes, which have a 6-foot wing span. Some bats have tiny wrinkly faces while others have faces that look just like a fox’s. Some have big or small ears and long or short tails.

Bats provided valuable ecosystem services. They are important pollinators. Eating fruit, they disperse seeds. Bats also eat tons of bugs. “The thousands of insects they eat each night save farmers millions of dollars on insect control and crop damage. That makes bats the most organic form of insect control you can get.” Indeed, the estimated value of their bug-eating to farmers is somewhere between $4 and $50 billion.

As FWS mentions, some bats do eat blood, hence the association with Dracula and now Halloween, but that’s not really a cause of concern, as these vampire bats live in Central and South American and feed on livestock blood. The saliva of these unique bats has even been used to develop medicines for stroke patients.

FWS recently proposed making one species, the northern long-eared bat, endangered, given there has been a 99-percent drop in their populations due to white-nose syndrome, a “rapidly spreading fungal disease.” FWS and other U.S. agencies are working hard to understand the cause of this disease, which started in eastern New York in 2006 and has since spread to 22 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces.

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So what can we do to help the bats? FWS tell us that one percent of wild bats do carry rabies, so if you see one lying on the ground, don’t handle it. If a bat happens to get in your house, call your local natural resource agency so they can remove them without harming them. Otherwise, FWS tells us to observe rules about cave closures — and generally avoid caves with hibernating bats. Cavers should really decontaminate before entering and leaving a cave.

Given bats are so long-lived — some live up to 30 years — and produce so few pups each year, FSW writes that “it will take many generations for populations to recover from this disease.”

This brief video visualizes many of these ideas:

Also, learn more at white-nose syndrome.org.

Image credit: Bat Swarm / Flickr. Zach-o-matic, (2) Massachusetts tri-colored bat with white-nose syndrome / Jon Reichard via U.S. FWS

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Restoring post-industrial, particularly post-military, landscapes means adding another layer of history to places that already have many. For a group of environmental philosophers at the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) in Madison, Wisconsin, those earlier layers of history each have an important meaning — and it’s important they aren’t lost as landscapes long-damaged by industrial or military use are restored.

Preserving Ruination at Orford Ness

According to professor Caitlin DeSilvey, a cultural geographer at the University of Exeter, Orford Ness, a shingle-ridge landscape in the UK, was a secret site for military research during World War II. In 1953, the UK’s National Trust took over the land and transformed it into a sort of preserve. She said military testing, including testing with atomic and chemical weapons, had a “severe effect on the native landscape.” Now, efforts are underway to improve the habitat while managing public access.

There are signs everywhere explaining the still-lurking dangers of unexploded ordinance. If you stay on the paths, the site is “safe but not comfortable.” The remaining buildings are especially uncomfortable. She said there was a “deliberate decision to let the relics of military structures decay.”  A test pit for chemical weapons is now a lagoon filled with rainwater. Moss covers all the surfaces. Yellowhorn poppies appear inside the buildings. But even then, these structures still offer a “palpable sense of secrecy and threat.”

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Beyond these structures, the weedy ruderal ecosystem is starting to appear among the disturbed shingle (rocky rubble) landscape. DeSilvey said Orford Ness’ revival as a landscape is the “naturalization of a violent period of history.” In this instance, nature softens its history.

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DeSilvey also said “there’s beauty in decay.” Orford Ness provides a window into that process and change. Indeed, the site’s fascination may be its “troubling resonance and incoherence.” There are no “pure zones,” only messiness, as the shingles approach, spilling through the door of buildings.

Unfortunately, the question remains whether the National Trust will let the decay stay. If the site is moved into another category of historical value, the site may end up being “cleaned-up.” For now, there are just guided tours through the relics. Artists’ installations have also been added to the landscape. Luckily “they are making a virtue of decay.” (see more images).

Applying Nietzsche’s Three Histories to Landscape Preservation

“What role should history play in restoration?,” asked professor Jozef Keulartz, Wageningen University. This is actually a tricky question, given history can be different based on your point of view. Citing Friedrich Nietzsche, the great writer and philosopher, he said “there are no facts, only interpretations.” Nietzsche thought there were three forms of history: antiquarian, monumental, and critical. Ideally, these three forms of history will balance and correct each other.

Antiquarian history is about the “preservation and admiration of the past.” While positive from a historic preservation point of view, the danger, said Keulartz, is “everything old becomes over-estimated; everything new is thrown out.” This approach can “mummify life” and preserve the “on-going tyranny of the past.” Too often, Keulartz said, England takes an antiquarian approach with their historic sites. As an example, he pointed to the Geevor Tin Mine, which has been kept in its original state. Visitors can take tours and experience the life of a miner.

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In contrast, monumental history is opposed to mummification; it’s a “counterpoint to being stuck in the past.” Monumental history is all about “inspiring contemporary man, finding teachers from the past and using them as role models to encourage future progress.” The danger there is “history can become a fiction, a grab-bag.” Keulartz said the Dutch were less conservative than the English about their historic preservation projects and use a “pragmatic style.” In one example, the Western Gas Factory, the Dutch restored a Neo-Renaissance-style building but renovated for creative uses, including exhibitions, fashion shows, and festivals. “Monumental history is about conserving through development, the creation of new spatial values.” In this model, places get a second life. “It’s a practical use of the past, but in danger of being shallow.”

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In Nietzsche’s critical history, man has the strength to “shatter the past” and “erase histories.” It’s not about “examining the past but destroying it” in order to create a new future. This kind of whole-sale condemnation of the past can be dangerous because “we can destroy the past but can’t escape from it.” Keulartz cautioned, “we can hope for a more decent future but this may be a false hope.” Germany, which is “anything but proud of its past,” often takes a critical historical approach to many of its historic sites.

For Keulartz, one site achieves Neitzsche’s difficult balance of history: Landscape Park Duisborg Nord, which was created by landscape architect Peter Latz. There, lots of plants and trees are mixed within the post-industrial factory landscape. While nature has appeared spontaneously, the reoccupation of the site by nature was stimulated in other areas. Nature was designed, with gardens placed throughout. Duisborg took an old pit and made it the biggest indoor diving pool in the EU. A wall was re-purposed as a climbing course. “Duisborg is about reusing and remembering.”

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Learning How to Read the Landscape

For professor Martin Drenthen, Radboud University, determining the restoration goals for a historic landscape is a loaded process filled with lots of value judgements. Historic landscapes have obviously undergone significant changes over the years, reflecting “conflicting interpretations of the landscape.” As such, with any restoration project, the “meaning of the landscape may not be immediately apparent.”

There have been a ton of books published around the theme of “reading the landscape.” These books argue that “landscapes are essentially texts,” in which layers of meaning must be mined and read. “Places embody people’s histories and cultural identities. Their context explains who we are.” Landscapes are literally “infested with meanings.” For example, he said the idyllic Dutch landscape reflects the “virtues Dutch have cultivated and represent Dutch culture. They reflect the dialogue between man and nature.”

Restoring the ecological function of a site, “rewilding” it, is another “deepening of the history of a site.” It can be “sense of place 2.0.” Underneath all of those human layers, “wilderness always reigns so re-wilding really has a moral message, too. It’s about recognizing the value of history and successive layers but that deeper layers have special importance.” Layered landscapes are like a palimpsest.

But Drenthen added that “each new interpretation of a landscape needs to be open,” too, to allow for future layers of meaning to be added. As an example, he pointed to the work of artist Michael van Bahel, who “doesn’t destroy history” with his new art works, but exposed hidden layers. In one piece, he created a viewing portal for understanding a historical war site. Here, “art is the lens.”

Restoring One of America’s Largest Superfund Sites

Back in the U.S., post-industrial sites are also being restored, raising the same sorts of issues. In Butte, Montana, efforts are underway to restore the area around the 1-mile-wide by 1.5-mile-long Berkeley Pit, one of the largest SuperFund sites in the U.S, into its natural state. According to Michigan Tech professor Frederic Quivik, the former copper mine dump site, which was owned by Anaconda Copper, has “extremely toxic water, some 1,000-feet deep.” But beyond the pit, tailings from the mining actually traveled along the Clark Fork River all the way to Missoula. Quivik said while copper mining is certainly destructive, “everyone is complicit. Everyone loves copper. Automobiles and airplanes depend on copper.”

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Not only did the copper pollute Butte and other communities along the Clark Fork River, it also impacted the air and land. Quivik said in the mid-1950s, smoke pollution from the smelting process poured “arsenic, sulfur, and iron” waste materials into the atmosphere. Livestock in range of the smokestacks “were sickly or dying.” The Anaconda Copper was sued by farmers and the U.S. government. One result of their successful suit was Anaconda had to create a 585-feet stack. Tailings along the river had to be excavated and deposited elsewhere. Amazingly, today, trout are living in the creeks along the river.

Anaconda Copper created man-made ponds to manage the tailings, with artificial waterways to move the copper sulfate. These ponds actually have to be managed in perpetuity, as they remain one of the most contaminated areas. But, interestingly, around these ponds, a new golf course was put in, designed by Jack Nicklaus. Other areas have been restored as wildlife habitat. New educational signage also help visitors interpret the site. The positive changes in the Clark Fork River communities are worth exploring (read a great article on the environmental remediation effort in High Country News).

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From Military Sites to Wildlife Preserves

Many former military sites in America are being swiped clean and restored to earlier versions of themselves, natural areas. According to professor David Havlick, University of Colorado, there are nearly two dozens former Department of Defense sites across the U.S. that are now wildlife preserves, some 1.2 million acres.

Havlick called these places “unique hybrid landscapes” because they are “ecologically valuable but highly contaminated.” These sites are layered with multiple meanings: They reflect national sacrifice (they are often called “sacrifice zones”) but also the resiliency of nature. The restoration process itself also generates meaning, as a “previously restricted space now comes back into view.” As these sites are restored, they also show the possibility of “military stewardship,” and the military taking environmental responsibility.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is leading the restoration at many of these former military sites. Havlick said they take a “wildlife-first policy.” At the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, FWS is restoring the short grass prairie at a former chemical weapons facility that is heavily contaminated. The old bunkers are presented as amenities. Havlick said people are really drawn to these. At the old Arsenal site, wetlands are now bringing in waterfowl.

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Thousands of acres of prairie grass are now munched on by imported bison.

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A visitor’s center tells the “narrative about individual and community sacrifice.”

Another Perspective on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal

For philosophy professor Marion Hourdequin, Colorado College, the question is “what is the role of history?” She argued that “most traditional ecological restoration projects aren’t up to preserving diverse values.” Historical fidelity means restoring a site to its pre-settlement conditions, prior to colonization by Europeans. This means trying to undo the legacy of human interventions in the site before then. But Hourdequin thinks this isn’t even possible. The new model for ecological restoration accepts this, offering a “dynamic view of ecology, contingency, and global warming. We are now dealing with altered and fragmented landscapes.”

Hourdequin thinks sites up for ecological restoration should instead be treated as “complex, layered landscapes that don’t ignore the past or only restore to pre-settlement conditions. We need a middle way that integrates humans and nature.” She believes this is because “human values are intertwined with places.”

At the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, there is a rich history that goes beyond the “weapons to wildlife narrative.” Before Europeans arrived, the place was used seasonally by native Americans. The area was eventually homesteaded by European settlers. Later, in the 1940s, it became a primary site for American chemical weapons production, including VX, Sarin, and Napalm. Then, it was leased to Shell for pesticide production. In the early 90s, efforts began to clean-up and restore the site. The story today is bald eagles, owls, bison, prairie dogs living in what looks like a natural site.

Hourdequin says it’s important not to forget these many important layers of history. While a wildlife refuge today, the place actually holds multiple meanings. Just look at the comments from visitors, who call it “quiet and sad” and “peaceful and redemptive.”

Image credits: (1) Orford Ness / Wikipedia, (2) Orford Ness / copyright Gareth Harmer, (3) Orford Ness / Tomoland, (4) Geevor Tin Mine / My Daily, (5) Western Gas Factory / Outerhop, (6) Landscape Park Duisborg Nord / Landezine, (7) Berkeley Pit / Wired magazine, (8) Clark Fork River restoration / High Country News, (9) Rocky Mountain Arsenal / David Mendosa, (10) Bison / The Denver Post

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beehabitat
Bees aren’t all alike. The tens of thousands of different bee species around the world need different habitat to do well. Getting unique species to take root in restored habitat is a whole other story. In a session at the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) conference in Madison, Wisconsin, ecologists discussed how challenging it is to create habitat bees will use year after year, particularly in restored landscapes.

Places for Bees in Agricultural Areas

Claire Carvell, who is a researcher at the Center for Ecology and Hydrology in the UK, outlined how English bees have responded to habitat restoration projects. The situation for bees there is pretty dire. Some 75 percent of the UK is agricultural land. Some 97 percent of wildflower meadows, places bees love, are gone. As a result, “bees have significantly declined over the 20th century.”

The UK has more than 260 bee species, with some 26 species being social. There are 25 native bumblebees (2 have gone extinct). While there are still many types of bees, Carvell said bee diversity has decreased in more than half of the UK’s landscapes — by more than 50 percent since 1980.

To combat these trends, the UK government has initiated a program that pays subsidies for the “intensification of landscape quality.” Farmers must chose wildlife-friendly options to quality for those subsidies, which can total 280 pounds a year. One common outcome of this subsidy is natural strip of land left alone within farmland. There, a mix of agricultural plants and grasses bees like are added. Bumblebees take to agricultural legumes, while sunflowers are also good for bees.

In a recent project, Carvell said ecologists tested a few different options. In land where were there simply crops, there was no value for bees. In areas without pesticides, there was only a limited response. Where the “natural generation of plant communities” was allowed, there was also only a limited response. She said the key is creating sites with pollen and nectar, a diverse seed mix, which resulted in a “significant response” from the bees.

But one seed mix, no matter how diverse, will “not have sustained benefits.” There is a seasonal component; some plants die off. Flowering plants that offer nectar need to be re-sown every 3-4 years. Diverse plant mixes must include perennials.

Former Mining Sites Can Provide Habitat

Former mining sites litter the globe. Given all the untapped land, there are lots of opportunities to restore them as habitat for bees. But how good are these sites?, asked Karen Goodell, an ecology professor at Ohio State University.

The answer: reclaimed mines “can aid bee conservation,” but they will not be as good as remnant (untouched) habitat. It’s difficult to restore plant communities that existed in mining areas before. Forests can be re-created, but the full ecosystem is another story. While “floral diversity and abundance will positively affect bee recruitment,” bees will be less diverse in these mining sites than in remnant habitats.

In an observational study of 24 sites at The Wilds, a leading conservation site in Ohio, Goodell netted bee species, counted floral resources, and assessed nest habitat. She looked at sites that “vary in proximity to natural habitat.” A few experimental sites had “augmented nest sites;” another set only got “nest blocks” in the second year.

Looking specifically at Megachilid bees, which are more solitary than honey bees and nest on or in the ground, she found that “the abundance of floral resources wasn’t really important, restoring nesting substrate was far more critical.” Nesting “subtrate” includes stem wood and bare soil. She added that “adding additional artificial nest substrate didn’t help.” To that end, she said it’s important habitats, whether they are restored or not, have ample hollow stem wood lying around, shrubs, dead wood, and bare ground, if you want to attract Megachilids.

Challenges with Ecosystem Restoration

For Neal Williams, University of California – Davis, the transformation of wild areas into agricultural areas is the primary reason for bee habitat loss. Near the Sacramento River in California, a group of farmers and other interests are restoring an 80-kilometer swath along the river corridor from Red Bluff to Chico. Williams’ study there is looking at the community of pollinators in the restored fragments in comparison with the remnant riparian forests. His interest is what factors contribute to the “persistent differences” between the two areas.

Williams said the sites were actually restored. A mono-cultural landscape filled with Walnut orchards was turned back into a forest, but now there is no understory. The issue then was that “species richness was restored, but not composition.”

Lastly, Rufus Isaacs, Michigan State University, discussed bee habitat restoration in managed lands in Michigan. He said there’s a “great diversity of fruit and vegetable production in the area and farmers are very interested in the health of bees.” Hopefully, more will actually do something about setting aside land for bees, given so much of America’s farm produce relies on pollinators.

Image credits: Bee Habitat / Honeybee Conservancy

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