Land Use and Biodiversity

February 28th, 2013 – Seminar 4

Group Members:
Emeil Alvarez, Lukas Timmerman, Alanna Perron, Bethany Strecker, Kristen Mowat, Genevieve Mead, Kate Soltys, Allister Johnson, and Cedric Watat

Del Tredici, Peter. “Spontaneous Urban Vegetation: Reflections of Change in Globalized World.” Nature & Culture 5, No. 3 (November 20120): pg 299-315 Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.

This article looks at various approaches to manage spontaneous urban vegetation as an alternative to restoring historical ecosystems that flourished before the urban fabric existed. The city is naturally consumed with high levels of disturbance, impervious surfaces, and heat retention, which have directly affected soil, water and air conditions. In turn, these conditions actually promote  “stress tolerant successional vegetation on abandoned or unmaintained land.” The notion is that these plants succeed in our current climate and urban conditions without modification, so instead of looking to the past as to how vegetation has succeeded, prime examples stand before us in the modern age that can direct us in a more sustainable solution.
Specifically, the article distinguishes three categories of vegetated urban land. These being remnant native landscapes, managed horticultural landscapes, and abandoned ruderal landscapes. Each one of these categories differentiates from one another based on their past land use history, types of vegetation, soil characteristics and the level of required maintenance. As the article distinguishes the differences, it begins to inform us as to how plants can be adapted into citys environmental conditions. In summary, the task is not how we eliminate the vegetation but how to manage them “to increase their ecological, social, and aesthetic values.”

Proposed Discussion:

Is it better for nature to be left to itself, or should we intervene when it begins to take over?

Why are our views towards certain plants negative, and how can we change these views so that native species can grow where they are intended to?

Should all vacant areas that vegetation has taken over be turned into parks or should they be left alone to let biodiversity take over?

Personal Reflection Generated from Group Discussion:
I think the first question is rather broad because there is no mention of scale. I believe it comes down to the degree of how badly nature takes over that dictates our steps towards necessary intervention. For example, if nature is consuming our development in a way that impedes our functionality then it absolutely should be intervened. In contrast, if nature develops out of the way and comes down to simply an aesthetic preference, then absolutely not. This in turn proceeds into the second question in terms of why our views towards certain plants are how they are. I think that comes down to aesthetics which proceeds into social standards and preferences. Certain plants are consumed with vibrant colours and soft textures that we have come to see as visually stimulating and “fitting” into our industrial and personal environments. They have come to become a delicacy in a sense that we have to go the extra mile to obtain them (purchase) In turn, vegetation of harsher, darker colours and textures are seen as a nuisance and must be removed a result (even though they grow free of cost). One of my profs from last year in University personally loved weeds because of the fact that they are constantly removed. We have ironically made weeds become a delicacy solely because we constantly remove them. They are not socially acceptable and become first priority when maintaining and preserving personal gardens and spaces. As a result they have come to achieve a degree of rarity even though they grow sporadically and constantly.
I don’t believe all vacant lots that have been taken over by vegetation should solely be dedicated to parks. If we were to do so, then it brings us back into our first proposed question in that we would essentially be speeding up the process of letting nature take over our setting. We shouldn’t simply remove “un-planned” vegetation but maybe isolate or direct it in different way for different experiences. It doesn’t have to be at as large of a scale as a park necessarily but a garden for example.

Stokes, David L. “Local Land-Use planning to Conserve Biodiversity: Planners Persepective on What Works.” Conservation Biology 24, no. 2: 450-460. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.

This article focuses on the growing problem of urbanization and how it directly impacts biodiversity and habitat situations. The article interviews various planners of different regions with variance on jurisdictions (in terms of biodiversity in local planning) and how that plays its part. Studies found that areas of lower jurisdiction were of direct association with higher governmental levels while higher jurisdiction with associated with higher community values. In order to achieve higher jurisdiction, the article suggests a stress of importance on public education at a local scale, specifically on flagships and the potential benefits that come with local biodiversity. Based on studies that some of these planners have accumulated over time, they agree with the fact that human interest is associated with greater success. If we are to achieve a higher range of success, we must increase interest, which begins with education and identifying our failures. The weight is then put on the designers shoulders to initiate education, connections, and awareness through experience by strategically designing urban parks and green spaces with seclusion from urban context while still remaining within its boundaries.

Proposed Discussion:

How can planners consider biodiversity as a primary concern instead of an after thought and attend to it before it becomes a larger issue?

Do you think that every person has a responsibility to protect biodiversity or is it solely the planners responsibility?

Personal Reflection Generated from Group Discussion:
I believe that in order to start considering biodiversity as a primary concern we have to start with how it relates to the local. Just as the article suggests, education is the first step, but I believe its a matter of how relevant the education is to the individual that will determine their steps/ levels of establishing change.  You can’t just throw out facts in their face and say this and this is going to happen if “we as society don’t begin to change.” I think that education needs to start at a smaller and more intimate scale, meaning that we need facts as to how it will affect the individual more so then society as a whole. We have grown to become a selfish society and feel that everyone else will figure things out so reference to how it will affect a larger scale as a main argument will achieve nothing. Education must be established in a way that is specific to the individual, as hard or inconvenient as that may be, and then individually we can do our part to benefit our selfish needs and accumulate a higher degree of success as a entirety. As a follow up to the second question, this begins with planners to initiate the education necessary to establish change. They must strategically use what they are given with in terms of context and incorporate ways to stress the importance through awareness to achieve a higher level of success.


Photo 1:
Misinterpreted Weeds
Roofer 1. Weed Hill. Photograph. Flickr. April 7th, 2008.
Weed Hill

Photo 2:
Human Engagement
Cuba Gallery. Garden Portrait. Photograph. Flickr. April 15th, 2009.


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