Experimental Place-Making: Designing for Biodiversity and Soil Health in Urban Public Landscapes.

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Ann Kearsley, Johanna Barthmaier-Payne, Nicholas J.C. Gellie, Jacob G. Mills, Dorn Cox

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The living systems of public landscapes in urban environments have the potential to deliver critical public health benefits and ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, stormwater management, mitigating the urban heat island effect and microbiome rewilding, supporting the development of healthy human immune systems. All of these ecosystem services are linked to establishing diverse vegetation and implementing construction and land management practices that promote and maintain healthy soils. However, conventional urban design practices typically lead to simplistic, static public landscapes with minimal ecological function, landscapes intended to be maintained with low skills and at low costs. Landscapes designed to be ecologically functional, where plants species reproduce, modify their physical environment and provide habitat resources will, by definition, be experimental, both in terms of their constructed living systems and their cultural significance. They will look different from traditional public spaces, their physical forms, plantings and appearance will be in flux as they are managed for ecological succession and integrate volunteer vegetation dispersed from surrounding properties. These changes in design and land management practices will also result in a significantly different landscape aesthetic, changing how people interact with and experience their public landscapes. Developing robust communication frameworks to engage local communities and municipal staff in the experimental process is critical to the success of an ecologically designed public landscape. This presentation will feature case studies where urban design parameters are expanded to include pilot projects testing planting and soil remediation strategies for ecological function, public education, social engagement and improved public health outcomes.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program