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Archive for the ‘WILDLIFE’ Category

BY ZACH MORTICE

Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force responders conduct aerial search and rescue in Rockport, Holiday Beach, and the Port Aransas area. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, photo by the Texas National Guard.

An unprecedented storm that dumped more than 50 inches of rain onto Texas over just a few days, Harvey was the kind of hurricane that worsening climate change promises to bring back for a sequel. And if and when that happens, the next round of  recovery and resilience calculus might best begin with the results of the National Science Foundation’s series of research grants dedicated to studying the storm’s effects.

Last month, the agency handed out just over $5 million across 59 research projects prompted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, including several that deal with the ecological and landscape fallout of catastrophic storms. Each promises to generate valuable information about flora and fauna left reeling from extreme weather events. But these studies (four of which are detailed here) are even more vital as mile markers down the path toward a future besieged by climate change—either as guidance on forestalling it or living better within its confines.

Anna Armitage of Texas A&M Galveston is studying how the transition from salt marsh wetlands to mangroves might change how hurricanes affect the coast. In Texas, low, marshy wetlands are common, whereas dense mangroves are rare. That balance is shifting, however, as climate change heats up these ecosystems. As mangroves expand their footprint, Armitage (and researchers at Florida International University and the University of Houston) wonders if they might offer coastal ecosystems and human settlement more protection from hurricane winds and rain—at a cost of biodiversity. “It probably doesn’t provide the same value for birds, fish, and shrimp,” she says.

Climate Change Big Picture: If mangroves do offer more protection for coastal ecosystems in a climate of increasingly severe storms, then Armitage says the next question is, “Should we be planting them in restoration sites?” These kinds of “living shorelines,” she says, could be “more resilient, longer-lasting, and nicer looking protection for our communities” than concrete barriers.

Grant amount: $122,935

Paul Montagna of Texas A&M Corpus Christi is studying the inundation of fresh water (via rainfall) into saltwater ecosystems that Hurricane Harvey caused. From initial measurements after the rain, he’s observed increased amounts of dissolved organic matter in these waterways, and has seen (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

Kate Orff, ASLA. Image courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

FROM THE NOVEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Kate Orff, ASLA, became the first landscape architect to receive a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, which carries a $625,000 award over five years for “originality, insight, and potential.” Orff was among 24 fellows named by the foundation today, who also included artists, activists, scientists, and historians.

Orff is the founder of SCAPE Landscape Architecture in New York, and the director of the urban design program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. The firm’s work has achieved wide renown in recent years for its novel and intensely collaborative approaches (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Galveston Island State Park in the year 2060. Image courtesy of Studio Outside/Google Earth.

This is Part 3 of our conversation about Hurricane Harvey with the design team at Studio Outside in Dallas, which has won a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning for its work on Galveston Island State Park. Part 1 and Part 2 can be found below. Correction appended below on August 28.

Studio Outside’s resiliency plan for Galveston Island State Park earned a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning, drawing praise from the jury for its comprehensive and forward-looking anticipation of the havoc a hurricane could release. But Studio Outside’s Andrew Duggan and the design team, led by principal in charge Mike Fraze, knew they were pondering ironclad eventualities, not hypothetical disasters.

Over the weekend, the city of Galveston and Galveston Island State Park to its southwest found themselves in the path of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on Friday night, a Category 4 storm that has prompted mass evacuations of the Houston region.

Studio Outside’s project, “Storm + Sand + Sea + Strand: Barrier Island Resiliency Planning for Galveston Island State Park,” tracks the loss of habitat and land as perpetuated by sea-level rise, encroaching development, and hurricane flooding. It prescribes soft and green natural barriers to storm surges, assisted by flexible infrastructure. As a barrier island bordered by Texas’s West Bay to the northwest and the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, there are few places to hide from floodwaters or to absorb them, and even less given that this part of the island was partially paved over to accommodate RVs in the 1970s. On Friday and over the weekend, Duggan (based safely in Dallas) and members of the design team (Fraze and Duggan of Studio Outside, and Jennifer Dowdell and Ed Morgereth of Biohabitats) emailed LAM some thoughts on how the storm might play out for Galveston Island State Park.

****Post will be updated as the storm progresses**** (more…)

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When the landscape architects at Mahan Rykiel Associates found themselves with uprooted trees they couldn’t fit back onto a newly designed and built mixed-use building site, they offered them to a local Baltimore middle school in the Locust Point neighborhood. But after talking with the principal of Francis Scott Key Middle School, they quickly realized that there was an opportunity for a much deeper collaboration than simply donating some foliage.  So the landscape architects began designing a school yard with four different types of learning environments, to aid what they call “STEM-based environmental education.” Project Birdland will be the first phase of a partnership between Mahan Rykiel Associates and Francis Scott Key Middle School. Students will work with a biologist and the fabricators at Gutierrez Studios to design and build birdhouses for endangered and threatened bird species. From the outset, the project gives students an introduction to the humancentric world of design and craft and also to the creation of habitats for their neighboring fauna.

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BY BRADFORD McKEE

Credit: Richard Crossley [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, left; Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons, right.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Susan Combs will be back for the golden-cheeked warbler. Combs is a former Texas state comptroller, agriculture commissioner, and state representative who has been nominated by President Trump to run the policy and budget section of the U.S. Department of Interior. The job will put her in charge of all things related to the Endangered Species Act, under which the golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) is listed as being at risk of extinction. She “has an aesthetic interest in the golden-cheeked warbler and seeks to conserve the warbler and its habitat within Texas,” according to a petition she signed in June 2015 to have the bird taken off the federal Endangered Species list. But “Combs believes that local and state conservation efforts would be of greater benefit to the warbler and that continued unwarranted regulation under the Endangered Species Act can impede voluntary and local conservation efforts.”

Combs seems fond of these voluntary and local conservation efforts, as opposed to statutory mandates, to protect species, perhaps because they have little if any force. In 2011, she masterminded an effort called the Texas Conservation Plan for the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus). The plan was less about conserving the lizard than keeping it off the Endangered Species list and out of the way of the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Farm Bureau, among other cosigners of the plan, with “a locally controlled and innovative approach.” Another cosigner was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southwest Region office. The problem, according to Gary G. Mowad, a former enforcement official and Texas administrator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was that (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

The world’s protected areas. Currently around 15 percent of the earth’s terrestrial surface is protected. The United Nations target is to reach 17 percent by 2020. © 2017 Richard J. Weller, Claire Hoch, and Chieh Huang, Atlas for the End of the World.

Within the hundreds of maps Richard Weller, ASLA, assembled for his Atlas for the End of the World, there’s an implicit argument for something like a new mandate for landscape architecture: Instead of mostly planning the development of public outdoor spaces in developed and affluent cities, it’s time for landscape designers to mediate the battles between rapidly expanding developing-world cities and the irreplaceable biodiversity they’re consuming. It’s a task that increases landscape architects’ zones of influence from the scale of city blocks to hundreds of square miles.

 The online atlas, which launched on Earth Day 2017 and just passed its 50,000th click, has a bracingly apocalyptic name. But within the discipline of landscape architecture, it points to a new beginning.

“There’s a whole question for us about how we approach urban design and planning so that cities (more…)

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BY RACHEL DOVEY

For Alaska’s Anan Wildlife Observatory, Suzanne Jackson designs around the attraction: bears.

FROM THE JUNE 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE. 

Suzanne Jackson spent nearly 30 years as a landscape architect at the Aspen, Colorado, office of Design Workshop, channeling her passion for backcountry hiking into habitat restoration and open space preservation. But it was when Jackson reconnected with her former colleague Barth Hamberg that things began to get, well, wild. Hamberg manages the landscape architecture program for Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, the largest national forest in the nation. In 2014, he offered Jackson a two-year post.

Jackson was charged with creating a master plan for the Anan Wildlife Observatory, which is located on a remote peninsula in Tongass’s Wrangell district and accessible only by boat or floatplane. It’s a steeply sloping temperate rain forest of spruce, hemlock, and huckleberries, and the pools and waterfalls of Anan Creek support one of the region’s largest pink salmon runs. That means a lot of hungry predators gathering to feast: black bears, grizzlies (called brown bears locally), (more…)

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