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Archive for the ‘ECOLOGY’ Category

By Arthur Allen

"Get your Farm in the Fight", 1941 - 1945." Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

“Get your Farm in the Fight”, 1941 – 1945.” Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

Environmental issues don’t always focus the minds of the people who write the nation’s farm bills. A 2012 report showing that corn and soy plantings had chewed up 1.3 million acres of grassland in the upper Midwest raised hardly an eyebrow in Congress. Perhaps unsurprising, it took people with guns to draw the legislators’ attention to conservation.

The warnings came from pheasant hunters, who spend $175 million a year in eastern South Dakota (“It’s fun—like shooting free-range chickens,” says one) and have grown increasingly disheartened at seeing their best hunting spots turned into rows of corn. According to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the loss in grassland—two Rhode Islands’ worth over five northern states—occurred during five years starting in 2006.

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2000px-Moose-warning.svgPeople living and working in critical wildlife habitat have a new tool in the box, thanks to big data and the Western Governor’s Wildlife Council. The Wildlife Council has just released the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), which displays information on important wildlife habitat and corridors across 16 western states.

The new mapping tool will allow planners, students, developers, and communities to see what is described as “crucial habitat” at the regional as well as the state and local level. CHATs will enable users to see where wildlife habitat exists and how potential development may affect those areas. The GIS mapping application coordinates data for energy, transportation, and land use planners, but could be used by any member of the public. Several state CHATs are already in use.

Information about the release of the Western Regional CHAT can be found here, but if you want to play around with the state CHATs, they can be accessed below:

State CHATs

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Edison Park Site Proposal: A raised circulation system embraces a contained dredge production facility. Images courtesy of Matthew D. Moffitt.

Edison Park Site Proposal: A raised circulation system embraces a contained dredge production facility. Images courtesy of Matthew D. Moffitt.

The Penn State undergraduate Matthew Moffitt won the 2013 ASLA Student Award of Excellence in General Design by showing that not all dredge is created equal. Moffitt’s project, Dredge City: Sediment Catalysis, uses dredged material from the Maumee River, a tributary of Lake Erie, to restore a brownfield site, reestablish migratory bird stopovers, and connect urban and ecological systems, all in the context of an elegantly detailed park. By processing the material dredged from a shipping channel on the Maumee, Moffitt looked at Toledo, Ohio, the most heavily dredged port in the Great Lakes, and asked how one of the lake’s greatest polluters—the Maumee dumps a considerable amount of phosphorous into Lake Erie, causing algae blooms among other problems—can become a source of lifeblood for the city. We talked with Moffitt, who now works at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, about how he conceived the project and how dredge is becoming a hot research topic.

How did you become interested in dredging as a source of remediation?
The project originally began as a studio project during my senior year at Penn State. The studio origins were in Toledo, Ohio, so that’s how it all began. My professor, Sean Burkholder, is very knowledgeable about dredge and is often working in the greater Ohio region. There are several postindustrial sites in Toledo along the Maumee River, and the river feeds into the Western Basin of Lake Erie. We were given one of several sites along the river, and the site I chose was Edison Park. The challenges of the site included [combined sewer] outfall, dumping postindustrial material, and adjacency to one of the newer bridges and the downtown skyline.

His studio prompt was very inspiring, and from there I started making the connections between dredged material and the sediment itself, and from there it blossomed. The general goal for the studio was to use dredge or sediment from the shipping channel for a park design. The assignment was pretty broad, so we had a lot of room to use our imaginations.

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Photo by Chris Sass, Associate ASLA

Photo by Chris Sass, Associate ASLA

From the August 2013 issue of LAM:

By Adam Regn Arvidson, FASLA, editor of Now

Of the professionals who deal with stream restoration—civil engineers and landscape architects—the latter, according to Tim Keane, generally have little understanding of how streams actually function. To remedy that, Keane, a landscape architecture professor at Kansas State University, with Chris Sass, Associate ASLA, who teaches landscape architecture at the University of Kentucky, and dozens of students through the years have been literally getting their feet wet in Kansas streams. They’re not inventing new ways of looking at watercourses, but gaining an understanding of how accepted stream science actually works.

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RAISING THE ROAD

From the August 2013 issue of LAM:

By Craig Pittman

For centuries the Everglades, a 70-mile-wide River of Grass, rolled smoothly southward, from the lush growth along the shores of Lake Okeechobee down to the crystal-clear waters of Florida Bay. Then in the 1920s, a crew came along with a dredge and built a massive dam.

It didn’t look like a typical dam. When it was completed in 1928, it looked like a two-lane, 275-mile highway that cut straight as a ruler across the marsh. Because it was built to connect Miami with Naples, then run up the coast to Tampa, its builders named it the “Tamiami Trail.”

The dredge scooped muck from the marsh and piled it up to make a roadbed. The ditch that resulted became a roadside canal to help keep the highway dry. But the effect was to dam up the flow of the River of Grass along the northern boundary of what would, in 1947, become Everglades National Park.

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A TRAIL OF STUMPS

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Photo by Jane Hutton

From the May 2013 issue of LAM:

By Jane Hutton

“This John Chipman bench was planted 500 years before Columbus sailed for America,” reads a Landscape Forms ad from a 1973 issue of this magazine. The familiar slatted bench is shown towering over a forest canopy. Its base is anchored to a colossal redwood stump. “When you have a site furnishing job to do, think about Chipman in 1,000-year-old redwood,” the ad says. “Even if your benches only have to last another 100 years.”

Old-growth redwoods yield beautiful, warm-toned lumber with a straight grain. The wood is low in resins and rich in polyphenols, which makes it both fire resistant and impenetrable to fungi and insects. Because of these desirable traits and the wood’s wide availability in the midcentury, modernist landscape architects in California used it extensively. Thomas Church even acted as a spokesman for the California Redwood Association in a 1956 ad, calling redwood one of his “most versatile materials.”

By the 1980s, landscape architects’ enthusiasm for old-growth redwood had waned. Harvest rates plummeted because of the near decimation of populations, and many of the remaining stands were incorporated into parks and preserves. As the use of old-growth redwood declined, other materials appeared on the market: second-growth redwood, chemically treated softwoods, and tropical hardwoods. When the redwood decking of Church’s Fay Garden in San Francisco was restored in 2006, it was replaced with a tropical hardwood called ipe (see “Degrees of Preservation,” LAM, January 2009).

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Deforestation in the state of Rondônia in western Brazil. Photo: NASA

Deforestation in the state of Rondônia in western Brazil. Photo: NASA

If you place plants above humans on the hierarchy of desirable beings (ha ha, try that topic at your next dinner party), or if you’re like the naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who recently called humans a “plague on Earth,” you’ll appreciate an essay by Michael Marder, a philosopher, on Al Jazeera’s web site that advocates for plant rights, not least as a possible brake on losses of biodiversity. Marder cites Hannah Arendt’s notion of “the right to have rights” along with scientists’ expanding knowledge of plant behavior and threads of thought from Hinduism and Jainism to build a case for the fundamental protections of plant life based on the “uniqueness of vegetal subjects.” It seems a conversation has already begun about plant rights, obliquely enough, in a 2008 report by the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology called “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” which Marder calls “an undeniable milestone.”

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