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Land Development in Sensitive Areas

Katherine Dunster, R.P.Bio, MBCSLA

Presented to Association of Professional Biology, Nanaimo, B.C. Canada May 4-7, 2011

“On every site the priority is the Landscape (not the Architecture)” – K. Dunster, 2011

What is a Landscape Architect? Well. they are not “landscapers”: the people who arrange garden features in attractive ways. clip hedges. mow lawns. . and blow leaves into piles with noise and air polluting 2-stroke leaf blowers.

. OR • completed a period of employment in landscape architecture (3 year internship) and written 5 professional registration exams (LARE). • and all must pass an oral examination before the Board of Examiners.Who gets to be a landscape architect? The BC Society of Landscape Architects (BCSLA) is the legislated regulating body that licenses landscape architects in BC. To become registered someone must: • have a recognised university degree in landscape architecture • have either 10 years of employment experience in another jurisdiction.

aesthetic. they help shape the form. paved areas. Landscape Architects integrate human needs into the natural environment by seeking functional.What Landscape Architects Do Using design and planning expertise. drainage. and economically viable solutions.) and softscapes (planted areas) at all scales – from the very local (a backyard) to the very global (UNESCO/IFLA Global Landscape Convention) . and appearance of the land for human needs while protecting ecological values. Landscape Architects deal with hardscapes (structures. As architects of the landscape. etc. function.

Why we need more landscape architects involved in land use planning & development • Architects and engineers design & build structures on / over / under landscapes • Planners only plan (they don’t “do”) • Biologists deal with the living natural environment • Hydrologists deal with water • Archaeologists deal with cultural heritage • Landscape architects deal with both natural and cultural landscapes and isn’t planning and development all about what we do to the land? .

Today that relationship is fast being reversed.” The Architect's Newspaper. pulling the formerly side-kicking field of landscape architecture into the spotlight. The element of usable landscape has grown in importance in a variety of high profile projects. making them ideal lead consultants and project managers on interdisciplinary design projects. .Who leads? “Traditionally. the architect was the master builder with landscape architects as mere ancillaries. March 26. 2011 Landscape architects are considered to be more intuitive in placing the environment at the centre of human (social & economic) demands for land.

and suburban uses. urban. people have been central to landscape changes in most places – from small individual gestures to large collective efforts. About 3. England Humans have converted 30% of the planet to agriculture. and wealth.Humans & Landscapes During the entire time humans have existed on this planet. . energy. Old Sarum. water. early settlement in Salisbury.8 billion hectares of the world's land has been converted transformations that have yielded food.

on a par with the forces of climate and geology.But conversion is also the primary driving force in the loss of biodiversity in ecosystems worldwide. need and greed. Okanagan Mountain Fire. Through ingenuity. Another 1/3 of the global land cover could be converted in the next 100 years. and biodiversity. 2003 (NASA) . humans have become primary global shapers of ecosystem form. process.

while keeping others as wild as possible for the species that need wild. we have moral responsibilities to manage some landscapes for human needs.We are an integral part of the world and as it evolves into the future landscapes will continue to reflect our cultural impacts and effects on the natural. Consequently. Clayoquot Sound .

the demands for change are also typically too fast for the natural world to adjust to in terms of ecosystem composition. Political directives drive rapid actions that shape the lives of people and landscapes. functions. and processes. World Health Organization While the demand for rapid change can be tough for humans to adjust to.Humans are easily swayed by fashion and social trends. . Society is ever-changing.

Who should we turn to for guidance? The political landscape? The natural landscape? The most secure place to base our actions is the natural foundation beneath us because nature grounds us in its slower paces of geological time. forest and ecosystem succession. water and nutrient cycling. and of course evolution. .

What is a natural landscape? .

“Usable Landscapes” = Anthropogenic Biomes .

1700 to 2000” (Ellis et al) Global Ecology and Biogeography. (2010) 19. . 589–606.Anthropogenic Biomes created and used by Humans 1700-2000 “Anthropogenic transformation of the biomes.

37% Novel.Key findings: • Biosphere was <than half wild in1700. . 23% Wild  Novel ecosystems embedded within used lands now almost twice as common as wildlands  Wildlands remaining primarily occur in Earth's coldest and driest regions. but only 5% used  Transition to mostly anthropogenic between 1900 & 2000  Biosphere in 2000: 40% Used.

We need to give them as much respect as the biodiversity in the mythical “pristine wilderness” desperately needs. adventurous. it’s urban. burned it. Get over it. versatile. A forest now dominated by non-native species is novel even if humans never cut it down. or ever visited it. As wilderness goes. The (many) species that make it in these places are scruffy. They are beautiful. and resilient.The new normal A novel ecosystem is one that has been heavily influenced by humans but is not under human management. A working forest doesn’t qualify. one abandoned decades ago does. . Typically they are embedded in urban and agricultural landscapes. Sometimes it is urban.

Ecosystems do things for us. healthy soils prevent hillside erosion. They give us food and purify the air we breathe. and wetlands act as a filtration system for the water cycle. Abandoned agricultural land and old field succession – a novel ecosystem . Ecosystems sequester carbon from the atmosphere. and many “novel” ecosystems do these things just as well as or better than many “more natural” or pristine ecosystems.

. This protection directly benefits biodiversity and the viability of surrounding ecosystems. 80% percent of the industrialized world's population will live in urban areas. Around a third of the world’s largest cities obtain a significant percentage of their drinking water from protected areas. By 2030.Cities and buildings are huge consumers of ecosystem goods and services – and they generate incredible amounts of ecosystemdamaging wastes.

It could also be a farm. “heavily invaded”. . This is an ecosystem.Land Development in the New Normal Biologists need get past describing places as “degraded”. “anthropogenic” or “trashy ecosystems” – we need them all. There is no such thing as a vacant lot.

England. urban expansion and intensively managed farmland. A 2001-2004 study of 61 gardens in Sheffield. the network of gardens on the ground and on rooftops may help wildlife to adapt and migrate through the landscape. www. 80 kinds of lichen.Suburban gardens can be biodiverse ecosystems. Gardens cannot replace specialised habitats. ranging from tiny backyards to plots of land ten times larger found 4. They can provide safe havens for many species now declining due to land . The number of plant species per garden ranged from 48 to 268. and 1.goert. As climate changes.166 vascular plant species.000 invertebrates. 63 species of bryophytes.


Reject all development proposals that do not put landscape ahead of the architecture. Reject all local government planning that does not put gardens. 2. . 3. We need to stop squandering land and rejecting the opportunities to integrate ecological design principles into land development at all scales.Manifesto 1. and ecosystems ahead of buildings and infrastructure. landscapes.

500 years is a useful benchmark for buildings. The “edifice complex” has to go. . 5.4. We need buildings and human settlements that function seamlessly with the landscapes they are imposed upon. If they could do that in low tech medieval times we surely can do that today. We need buildings and developments that go beyond 3dimensions and are placed in the 4th dimension of time and the space-time continuum.

and surrounding rural agricultural landscape.6. Italy). . If it cannot endure several centuries of adaptive re-use it should not be built. Abandoned but not knocked down. There is no such thing as an obsolescent building. aesthetics of the ancient stone buildings. the village was restored in the 1990s to high tech standards (an E-village) while respecting the original village footprint. Medieval Houses (13th century) in Colletta di Castelbianco (Liguria.

biologists. Architects.html vwithcare2006/develop_with_care_intro. Planners. Developers: Seek help from landscape architects. 8.greenshores. freshwater. and other scientists before you commit to anything. No development should be allowed to cut off the flows of energy.bc. Ditto for terrestrial and riparian / aquatic / wetland ecosystems: http://www. and species between terrestrial and marine ecosystems.7. There is help: http://www.

With all the technical support and information available to help plan and design buildings and developments that are fully integrated with local landscapes and ecosystems why O why is there still: .10.

including biologists. throughout projects and not just for short . We need: biologists to get involved in the next BC Land Summit (2014) http://www.We need: an integrated design process (IDP) that goes beyond creating high performance “green” buildings. We need: inter-disciplinary collaborations between all specialists. .Maybe the building is the least important part of the development. Gaspé My email: unfoldinglandscapes@gmail. St. It is if the landscape comes ahead of the architecture. Earth Cabin.