Common ground: exploring designed urban landscapes through the lens of experimental ecological restoration

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Nicholas J. C. Gellie, Jacob G. Mills, Ann Kearsley, Johanna Barthmaier-Payne, and Ben Sparrow

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Ecological restoration, landscape architecture and urban design share a common ground in being applied to cultural landscapes that have been affected, influenced, or shaped by human involvement yet the language, knowledge and practice of these disciplines is often quite exclusive. We believe that establishing green space should essentially be seen as creating a scientific laboratory which provides a unique opportunity to explore hypothesis, refine practices and inform decision makers regardless of if it is done in a natural, peri-urban or urban setting. In his seminal book Biophilia E. O. Wilson, who was once touted as “Darwin’s natural heir” posited that “humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life” and thus he introduced the world to the Biophilia hypothesis. A hypothesis that since its launch in 1984 has influenced our perception of cultural landscapes and can in many ways help to frame future collaboration between disciplines because it has resonated in both the social and life sciences. By discussing the utility of embedded experiments and innovative monitoring used in ecological restoration to assess ecosystems, their services and human health we highlight the versatility of such approaches and suggest alternate cross disciplinary applications. In particular, we propose a framework of strategic robust experiments (e.g. hypothesis testing) and long term monitoring borrowed from ecological restoration that could be embedded early in landscape architectural projects to help assess the functionality of design features and therefore support a more salutogenic approach to human health in the urban environment.

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Conference Presentation

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