Knowing Our Limits. Habitat Restoration Requires Ecologists Input

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums SUSTAINABILITY & DESIGN Knowing Our Limits. Habitat Restoration Requires Ecologists Input

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    Rob Halpern

    Many of us like to believe we can design anything. But can we really accomplish the goals of the project or merely get it built?

    A 2012 study in PLOS Biology, for instance, looked at 621 wetland projects and found most had failed to deliver promised results, or match the performance of natural systems, even decades after completion. Likewise,an upcoming study by Margaret A. Palmer at the University of Maryland reports that more than 75 percent of river and stream restorations failed to meet their own minimal performance targets. “They may be pretty projects,” says Palmer, “but they don’t provide ecological benefits.”

    Goustan BODIN

    Thanks for sharing, Rob, very interesting article.

    The first comment is spot on :

    “This article begins as it should with an acknowledgement that “restorations” are now a “huge business” and like most businesses, they are designed to compensate those who are engaged in them, not to benefit the environment or the public. “

    I face that everyday, like I believe most of us LAs do : if I want a check by the end of the month, I need to satisfy my client. My client is in the same situation to get his own checks. In the end, we all just run after checks, and more often than not the ultimate money provider wants to get richer quickly to repay all the checks he has to provide. The circle is complete, we all run after checks.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Wetlands develop in the natural environment because of what’s around them and beneath the surface. It’s the relationship of several meters of various soils, geology and the hydrology of a greater drainage system.

    The problem with “designed” wetlands is that we decide it would be nice to have a wetland somewhere and none of the bigger picture is there to support it.

    I would disagree that constructed wetlands don’t provide ecological benefits. Even poorly designed wetlands support wildlife and botanical diversity. The thing they don’t do is connect to other, larger, meaningful systems. They are islands unto themselves. But a naturalized detention/retention area is better than a turf bowl any day…

    Tosh K

    Very true, though in my experience the restoration firms tended to be heavy on ecologists (is the science not there? or the methods of analysis?).  

    I would also point out the reverse is true as well – they published recommendations for green infrastructure that sorely lacks systemic understanding of hydraulic engineering and campus design.

    Tosh K

    well, and academia wants their students to get checks, so they get endowment checks and so on.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    A new industry is going to be amateur hour a while. There are multiple perspectives going into it and multiple perspectives on executing. As time moves forward the benefits and consequences for each perspective will play out. So will the scrutiny and criticism. All of that will shape practices on assembling design teams, values, construction, and maintenance. It will get better.

    Also, there is a huge range of “wetlands restoration” from improving buffers to existing wetland resources on residential properties like I do all of the time to huge scale building or re-creating of wetlands. The level of knowledge and the direct results sought require anything from general knowledge of plant communities to a team of science specialists, engineers, LAs, ….

    No matter where on the spectrum you might be working, the goals, methods, and results become more familiar to those involved directly and on the edges the more volume of work has been done. It gets figured out.

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