Thursday, November 16, 2017

Urban shrapnel: spatial distribution of non-productive space


“Urbanisation is characterised by cycles of activation and obsolescence leaving in their wake an abundance of non-productive space (NPS). Expanding cities report more vacant land than do fixed cities, which report higher structural abandonment. If left untreated, existing NPS can spread to surrounding properties. Using Fort Worth, TX, USA as a case site, this research explores the spatial distribution of NPS using Geographical Information Systems spatial analyses. Directional distributions, time series analyses, spatial assessments using 5-mile buffer increments and weighted suitability models were combined to determine if urban core fragmentation is occurring, despite population and economic growth. Findings indicate that peripheral NPS area decreased but these spaces were redistributed into the urban core. Parcel size and regeneration potential in the city centre also decreased. This has resulted in a fragmented urban core characterised by disconnected and small/irregularly shaped parcels of NPS which are difficult to regenerate—an urban shrapnel.”

Authors: Galen Newman ORCID Icon & Boah Kim
Published through Landscape Research, Journal; Pages 699-715 | Published online: 20 Aug 2017
Volume 42, 2017 - Issue 7: Shrinking Cities: Rethinking landscape in depopulating urban contexts

Available at

Monday, October 30, 2017

Socioecosystems, part II

The following table, developed by Kowarik (2011), features the main urban drivers of plant and animal adaptations to city environments. The impacts of habitat fragmentation, pollutants, and disturbance in cities are well documented. But the emergence of research on novel habitats paint the possibilities of new urban ecosystems in the making. Life continues to adapt to the harshest of environmental conditions.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Socioecosystems (Grimm)

"There is an increasing body of evidence that urban land uses effect profound changes in all environmental components and that humans are the main drivers of change (Sukopp et al., 1979; Gilbert, 1989; Pickett et al., 2001; Alberti et al., 2003), thus leading to the idea of addressing cities as “socioecosystems” (Grimm et al., 2008)"

--Ingo Kowarik, "Novel urban ecosystems, biodiversity, and conservation", Environmental Pollution 159 (2011) 1974-1983

This interesting chart below by Kowarik (2011) identifies the urban drivers of biodiversity through landscape practices--including income levels of a neighborhood, available ornamental types, management, and propagule dispersal. How does your neighborhood fare?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Urban ecology and sustainability: The state-of-the-science and future directions

“Some components of cities or even some cities as a whole may be viewed as “novel ecosystems” in which the value of biodiversity should not be judged by its origins (Davis et al., 2011; Standish et al., 2013). Instead, we should “organize priorities around whether species are producing benefits or harm to biodiversity, human health, ecological services and economies” (Davis et al., 2011), and those alien (but not invasive) species that provide abundant ecosystem services should be incorporated into urban planning and management (Clark and Nicholas, 2013; Davis et al., 2011; Standish et al., 2013).” 

Wu, Jianguo. (2014). Urban ecology and sustainability: The state-of-the-science and future directions. Landscape and Urban Planning. 125. . 10.1016/j.landurbplan.2014.01.018. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Urban Nature Show on WTTW

Check out Marcus Kronforst's online video show that addresses urban ecology topics in 3 cities--Chicago, San Francisco, and New York. It's available here:!/

Marcus Kronforst, PhD, is the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolution at the University of Chicago. He is a prominent researcher in the field of evolutionary biology, where his work focuses on wing pattern mimicry in butterflies. Kronforst has published his scientific research in an array of highly influential journals, including NatureScienceNature CommunicationsProceedings of the National Academies of Sciences USAProceedings of the Royal Society of LondonGenetics, and Genome Biology, among others. He has been named a Pew Biomedical Research Scholar and he is the recent recipient of both an NSF CAREER award and an NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity grant, along with a 2016 Distinguished Faculty Award from the University of Chicago. Kronforst earned his Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. He received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Miami in 1998. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, he held a five-year Bauer Fellowship at Harvard University’s FAS Center for Systems Biology. Kronforst joined the University of Chicago faculty in 2012.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Tale of Adaptive Landscape Management


Like most designed landscapes, the entry garden for the Landscape Architecture Facility at Mississippi State University began with a plan. Specifically, this one:

I was asked to develop a planting plan in the summer of 2005, and I decided to focus on low maintenance plants to reflect our department focus on sustainable landscapes. Students helped to install plants in 2006, which looked like this:

Most of the plants did well and adapted to the sticky clay soils and persistent summer droughts. Drip irrigation was provided for the first year and then removed. Organic mulch was added periodically and the mineral soils developed a nice thick organic layer. Other than for establishment, no supplemental watering, fertilizing, or pesticides have been used. The perennials blossomed and established a quick cover within a year's time:

The trees and woody shrubs took time to grow and changes were already happening in the herbaceous layer. Some plants died out from drought or accidental weeding while others were planted to replace them. Volunteer herbaceous plants came in from local sources-- including native strawberries, evening primrose, and asters. Volunteers can spread rapidly and take advantage of late winter seasons where there is little competition. The evening primrose gave quite a display such as this:

Student workers in the garden were trained to use adaptive landscape management which they learned under one of my co-workers, Dr. Tim Schauwecker. Adaptive management, as defined by Holling, is decision-making as changes occur via system monitoring. An example of this in the landscape consists of allowing plant volunteers to come into the garden that are complementary to the already existing plants. Student workers in the LA garden actively pulled out any exotic invasive species such as Johnson grass or privet, while allowing others to exist. Some plants that took over aggressively, such as the evening primrose, and were pulled occasionally to keep them in check.

The garden today, 12 years later after install and shown above, has settled into a comfortable, more stable, plant community. Stable in the sense that vegetative changes will and are allowed to happen but there are no large wholesale changes to the landscape. The student managers allow plants to come in if they fit into the garden niche and offer a role through flowering or by providing other benefits. Plants that grow too large, or competitive, or are not suited-- are pulled out. Gardens are partnerships between the landscape and the people that care for them. By understanding the vegetative trajectories, or seres of a garden; and by allowing complementary plants to enter into that system from birds or wind; the garden co-evolves into a community of plants that exceeds the vision of the original designers or managers. Land managers--gardeners-- are really vegetative artists and allow the colors of plants to wash into the painting/plantings. We need to recognize that gardens are temporal and that all living things change. By listening to the land and allowing living things (plants and animals) to breathe and exist within the garden structure, the landscape renews itself. Gardens should, and need to be-- dynamic, instead of a static system.