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INTERVIEW BY BRADFORD MCKEE

In his new book, Doug Tallamy looks at oaks as a life force.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2021 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

In two influential books, the entomologist Douglas W. Tallamy has spread a message of people-powered biodiversity, to say that if humans have crowded out nature across the world, they can also invite it back in at close range. Tallamy, who is 70 and lives in southeastern Pennsylvania, is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where he joined the faculty in 1981 and has led or coauthored 104 published research studies on the behavior and chemistry of insects. In 2007, his book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants hatched a mission to persuade home gardeners to think big about the buffets they can create for animals just outside any door as bulwarks against ecological decline. He expanded that project in 2020 with Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard, which became a New York Times best seller.

Tallamy’s latest book, The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees (published, like the others, by Timber Press), puts his message through a different prism, that of the genus Quercus, which includes 435 species of oaks around the world, 91 of them in North America, where they are superlative among trees as sources of food and shelter in their environments. He details the oak’s life cycle through the 12 months of the year. “Unfortunately, the diverse web of life that is associated with oaks goes unnoticed and thus unappreciated by most homeowners,” Tallamy writes. Many homeowners, indeed, are ready to cut down oaks to avoid raking leaves, though he explains that raking is not only unnecessary but to be strongly discouraged, given the high value of oak leaf litter as microhabitat. Once again his gift to readers, in plainspoken prose, is to help them see the familiar in nature and find the unseen.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Bradford McKee: In The Nature of Oaks, as in your earlier books, you’re bringing science and natural history to the household conversation—

Doug Tallamy: That’s the goal!

BM: —though scientists who do academic research and also do public advocacy so regularly are exceptions in most fields. What’s driving your mission? (more…)

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BY KATHARINE LOGAN

Resource extraction companies are moving on public lands like never before.

FROM THE JULY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Since the creation of the Antiquities Act in 1906, American presidents have had the authority, the honor, and the privilege of designating as national monuments the country’s most culturally and scientifically significant public lands—including, by corollary, some of the most spectacular, biodiverse, heritage-rich, and downright magnificent landscapes in America.

It’s doubtful whether presidents also have the inverse authority—to deconsecrate a national monument once protected—but doubtful is good enough for the current incumbent. In December of 2017, the Trump administration announced the reduction of two national monuments in southern Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears, to shards of their former expanses, exposing culturally and ecologically important places to oil and mineral development.

The deconsecration of Grand Staircase and Bears Ears exemplifies a larger trend in this administration’s management of public lands. Since 2017, federally owned lands and waters totaling more than four times the area of California have been put up for lease to the energy sector. Utah, with its oil, gas, and mineral resources underlying the vistas of the Colorado Plateau, is on the front line. About 65 percent of the state is federally owned, and the U.S. Department of the Interior has received some 230 lease nominations covering more than 150,000 acres. Development of these leases threatens iconic Red Rock Canyon lands, forested plateaus, indigenous cultural sites, archaeological troves, and geological marvels. Some of the leases would allow drilling within half a mile of renowned protected sites, such as Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, and within 10 miles of Bears Ears’s radically shrunken limits. (more…)

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FOREGROUND     

Law in the Land (Interview)
The author and legal scholar Jedediah Purdy’s new book, This Land Is Our Land, sifts through
contradictory assumptions about our ties to the environment.      

Midas’s Touch (Planning)
Conservationists strike an uneasy alliance with a mining company that wants to clean up
and restore habitat near an old gold mine—so it can restart mining operations.

FEATURES

All Ours
A photographic essay of Washington, D.C.’s First Amendment spaces under threat
by the government.

After Extraordinary Conditions
With a small landscape architecture practice and a gimlet eye, the author makes her way
around the city of Tbilisi, Georgia, during the coronavirus lockdown.

The full table of contents for July can be found here.

As always, you can buy this issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine at more than 250 bookstores, including many university stores and independents, as well as at Barnes & Noble. You can also buy single digital issues for only $5.25 at Zinio or order single copies of the print issue from ASLA. Annual subscriptions for LAM are a thrifty $59 for print and $44.25 for digital. Our subscription page has more information on subscription options.

Keep an eye out here on the blog, on the LAM Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed (@landarchmag), as we’ll be posting July articles as the month rolls out.

Credits: “All Ours,” Sahar Coston-Hardy, Affiliate ASLA; “After Extraordinary Conditions,” Dina Oganova; “Law in the Land,” courtesy Laura Britton; “Midas’s Touch,” courtesy Midas Gold.

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AMAZON FIRE: WHO OWNS THE AMAZON?

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Who owns the Amazon? In news reports about the unprecedented number of fires burning in this vast forest during the past several months, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vehemently answered “Brazil”—punctuating that claim with the charge that any nation holding a different opinion is simply a colonizer, usually a European one. Yet defined in terms of the river’s massive watershed, the Amazon rain forest—the world’s largest such tropical biome—falls within eight South American countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Guyana.

Those same eight polities have been embroiled in a seven-year legal battle with Amazon.com, Inc. and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who would very much like to own .amazon—the domain name, that is. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the independent body that vets global Internet addresses—has sided with Bezos. American corporate interests, once again, seem to have the upper hand over local cultural heritage and place-name identity, despite concerns voiced by Brazil’s minister of foreign affairs and representatives from other governments that share the watershed.

Certainly, “owning” the Amazon has always been bound up in questions of sovereignty. And sovereignty has long been caught up in authoritative claims of possession. (more…)

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 BY JARED BREY

Why a Maryland landscape architect restores brook trout habitat in his free time.

FROM THE AUGUST 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

The underbelly of an eastern brook trout, especially when it is spawning, is orange and pink like a sunrise, and its back is dappled brown and green like a forest floor. The spots along its lateral line are small and circular like pink and yellow confetti, and the vermiculations on its back are yellowish and serpentine, like a Polynesian tattoo. It is a small fish, typically no longer than about 10 and a half inches—the height of this page—fully grown. It breeds in streams as far west as Minnesota and as far south as the extent of the Appalachian Mountains, in Georgia. First described in 1814, the species is thought to have come into its own during the Pliocene Epoch, between two million and five million years ago. Unlike the brown trout, which is commonly stocked for sportfishing, the brook trout is a member of the char genus. Both are members of the Salmonidae family, which also includes salmon.

The brook trout insists on cold water, and prefers to spend time in waterways with an even distribution of riffles and pools. When it is feeding, on plankton at first and later on insects as it matures, the fish wants to spend as little energy as possible to acquire food. It will hide in shadow in deep pools, and wait for bugs to come surfing down the thin seam of fast water that flows downstream from shallow rapids. If it senses an opportunity, it will strike. Sometimes it will catch a mayfly nymph, and sometimes it will catch an artificial fly tied to a fishing line owned by Scott Scarfone, ASLA. (more…)

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BY NATE BERG

A landscape architect and a biologist team up to counter urban biodiversity loss.

FROM THE JUNE 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A hawk glides overhead. An egret perches alongside a pedestrian walkway. Butterflies flutter in the foreground. From across the spectrum of the animal kingdom they appear in the drawings and renderings of modern architecture and landscape projects, hinting at a harmony between the designed space and the natural world. The projects, these animal cameos suggest, are not just urban developments, but healthy and diverse habitats.

“I won’t say it’s a lie, but these are big promises,” says Thomas Hauck, a Berlin-based landscape architect and a professor at the University of Kassel, in Germany. Hauck understands these images are meant to be aspirational, to show an idealized version of the designs they represent. But, he argues, sometimes too many illustrative liberties are taken “without evidence,” especially when urban development is more likely to destroy animal habitat than create it.

Hauck isn’t saying the animals should be taken out of the renderings. Rather, he wants to ensure animals actually show up once the project is built. To make that happen, Hauck has teamed up with a biologist from the Technical University of Munich named Wolfgang Weisser. Together, they’ve developed a theoretical design approach called Animal-Aided Design that seeks to counteract the ways development harms urban biodiversity by deliberately designing projects to accommodate animal species from the start. Through the careful targeting of species most likely to inhabit a given area, their approach provides the habitat requirements those species need to thrive throughout their life cycle.

“People hang up nest boxes and wonder why they’re empty,” Weisser says. “It’s because everything else is missing.” (more…)

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LIVE AND LEARN

BY MIMI ZEIGER

Algorithms are bringing new kinds of evidence and predictive powers to the shaping of landscapes.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Tree. Person. Bike. Person. Person. Tree. Anya Domlesky, ASLA, an associate at SWA in Sausalito, California, rattles off how she and the firm’s innovation lab team train a computer to recognize the flora and fauna in an urban plaza.

The effort is part of the firm’s mission to apply emergent technologies to landscape architecture. In pursuing the applied use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the research and innovation lab XL: Experiments in Landscape and Urbanism follows a small but growing number of researchers and practitioners interested in the ways the enigmatic yet ubiquitous culture of algorithms might be deployed in the field.

Examples of AI and machine learning are all around us, from the voice recognition software in your iPhone to the predictive software that drives recommendations for Netflix binges. While the financial and health care industries have quickly adopted AI, and use in construction and agriculture is steadily growing, conversations within landscape architecture as to how such tools translate to the design, management, and conservation of landscapes are still on the periphery for the field. This marginality may be because despite their everyday use, mainstream understandings of AI are clouded by clichés—think self-actualized computers or anthropomorphic robots. In a recent essay on Medium, Molly Wright Steenson, the author of Architectural Intelligence: How Designers and Architects Created the Digital Landscape (The MIT Press, 2017), argued that we need new clichés. “Our pop culture visions of AI are not helping us. In fact, they’re hurting us. They’re decades out of date,” she writes. “[W]e keep using the old clichés in order to talk about emerging technologies today. They make it harder for us to understand AI—what it is, what it isn’t, and what impact it will have on our lives.”

So then, what is a new vision—a vision of AI for landscape? (more…)

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