Resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize. Envision landscapes as self-organizing. Each is comprised of a number of interlacing systems, each capable of shifting as conditions evolve. Whenever a change occurs, each system shifts to regain balance. Disturbances, such as severe storms, fires – are natural occurrences that we need to consider.
Whenever a disturbance occurs, nature’s response is usually adaptive. For example, a very cold winter (the climate system) with deep snow makes obtaining food for bud-eating wildlife very challenging. Some perish, while others survive. During the following growing season the vegetative cover system flourishes in response to lower bud foraging. The relentless winter reduced wildlife populations enabling the forest to regenerate. It is still the same forest but it has adapted in order to thrive.
All natural systems are inherently self-organizing, respond to changes. Sometimes, severe conditions push systems beyond their ‘threshold’ limits, however.
If we could somehow bring a time traveler from 150 years ago to today, we would witness their astonishment at how much our forests, meadows and wetlands have changed.
Sometimes systems are pushed too far and fail to adapt. Once a system goes over the ‘threshold,’ other connected systems follow. This is the essence of resilient thinking: all systems are connected and respond to change.
It is challenging for us to recognize that essentially all landscapes have been disrupted by previous generations. Many have been pushed beyond their natural threshold.
This network system is called Natural Capital. It supports human needs in four distinct ways:
1.) Adapt to avoid crossing over the threshold-of-no-return OR
2.) Transform the system into something new by purposely jumping over the threshold.
By studying Natural Capital we can choose whether or not to stay within the safe zone, away from the threshold. We can employ and direct existing systems to work with us in reaching our goals.
Natural Capital provides a number of services used by people. The better we understand its workings, the more sustainable our systems become.
For years the people in a small western Massachusetts village have enjoyed slow growth. Gradually, though, more and more development has added impervious surfaces and once prevalent meadows around historic homes have become lawns, which allow much greater water run off.
Farming was once the lifeblood of the town’s economy. It was common practice to drain wetlands for crops. These altered systems worked as long as drainage ditches were maintained, but in our example this was not the case. Years after abandonment (1960’s), the wetland below the village common underwent a significant shift in its function and identity.
The recent increase in high intensity storms has caused more flooding in the town’s common for a couple possible reasons:
(Source: Lattrell Ecological Services, Personal Consultation)
The low lying village common’s water system will soon cross the adaptability threshold.
These disturbances have caused the structural and functional identity of the village’s common to shift. Soon its status will be a permanent wetland. Because measures to deal with excessive runoff have not been incorporated with low impact development (LID) in the town’s bylaws, the water system is being pushed over the threshold. Vegetation, wildlife and human use will be significantly affects.
My Resilient Landscape Planning & Design approach incorporates an adaptive and recursive process to understand existing systems’ identities and ways to evaluate the condition of a property’s Natural Capital (NC). Here’s a quick summary. More details and examples will follow:
Your Rough Goals form the basis for a successful start with My Resilient Landscape Planning & Design approach
Some of the conditions for achieving your vision seem obvious, while other features and processes may elude understanding. Site analysis of your property’s NC will reveal the essential information necessary to focus and refine your goals.
It is reassuring when you feel well informed. Moving fast forward into a decision may seem easier and obvious but could be depressingly expensive. (See “My Early and Expensive Goof.”)
Rough goals are just that: rough. RLD&P can help you refine them.
Here’s an example. Pioneer Valley Regional School’s initial rough goal was to locate the best site for an outdoor ropes course. After a site analysis, their refined goals became more clear.
Pioneer Valley Regional Schools refined goals after further site analysis and lots of stakeholder input from teachers, administrators, students, parents, community leaders and professionals.
Unlacing what lies under our feet and beyond our vision through Resilient Landscape Planning & Design requires Site Analysis. Here are the three basic groups of Site Analysis:
The Natural Capital of beauty is Aesthetics. To better understand this concept, four areas of site analysis are generally considered.
The Natural Capital of Food Security can involve eight different, but overlapping, site analyses.
For more information on Natural Capital, also known as Ecosystem Services, view this video clip!
The Principles of Resilient Design identify important values exercised during the planning and design stage. These guidelines are strong reminders that connect resilience, Natural Capital and sound methodology.
Combinations of site analyses, such as soil and water are “layered” to reveal new insights. Each layer reveals a piece of a more complex puzzle when uniquely combined.
Re-establishing meadows on the downslope around the pond has made a huge difference in our water supply. This simple action uses every Principle of Resilient Design.
Start with the easy actions. If you have established well-designed annual food gardens, why not consider slowly adding perennial food crops. Essential first steps should remain practical within the availability of resources.
Recognizing and observing patterns on your landscape foster a comprehensive, whole system approach.
Resilience Landscape Planning & Design is logical and works well across all sizes of properties for Your Home, Your Town or Your Business. Discover practical, plans that are both resilient and sustainable. Enjoy exploring our website and then give us a call.
We look forward to hearing from you.