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Networks cities and ecological habitats

By Gill M. Lawson


As the world’s rural populations continue to migrate from farmland to sprawling cities, transport\ud networks form an impenetrable maze within which monocultures of urban form erupt from the\ud spaces in‐between. These urban monocultures are as problematic to human activity in cities as\ud cropping monocultures are to ecosystems in regional landscapes. In China, the speed of urbanisation\ud is exacerbating the production of mono‐functional private and public spaces. Edges are tightly\ud controlled. Barriers and management practices at these boundaries are discouraging the formation of\ud new synergistic relationships, critical in the long‐term stability of ecosystems that host urban\ud habitats. Some urban planners, engineers, urban designers, architects and landscape architects have\ud recognised these shortcomings in contemporary Chinese cities. The ideology of sustainability, while\ud critically debated, is bringing together thinking people in these and other professions under the\ud umbrella of an ecological ethic. This essay aims to apply landscape ecology theory, a conceptual\ud framework used by many professionals involved in land development processes, to a concept being\ud developed by BAU International called Networks Cities: a city with its various land uses arranged in\ud nets of continuity, adjacency, and superposition. It will consider six lesser‐known concepts in relation\ud to creating enhanced human activity along (un)structured edges between proposed nets and suggest\ud new frontiers that might be challenged in an eco‐city.\ud Ecological theory suggests that sustaining biodiversity in regions and landscapes depends on habitat\ud distribution patterns. Flora and fauna biologists have long studied edge habitats and have been\ud confounded by the paradox that maximising the breadth of edges is detrimental to specialist species\ud but favourable to generalist species. Generalist species of plants and animals tolerate frequent change\ud in the landscape, frequenting two or more habitats for their survival. Specialist species are less\ud tolerant of change, having specific habitat requirements during their life cycle. Protecting species\ud richness then may be at odds with increasing mixed habitats or mixed‐use zones that are dynamic\ud places where diverse activities occur. Forman (1995) in his book Land Mosaics however argues that\ud these two objectives of land use management are entirely compatible. He postulates that an edge may\ud be comprised of many small patches, corridors or convoluting boundaries of large patches. Many ecocentrists\ud now consider humans to be just another species inhabiting the ecological environments of\ud our cities. Hence habitat distribution theory may be useful in planning and designing better human\ud habitats in a rapidly urbanising context like China.\ud In less‐constructed environments, boundaries and edges provide important opportunities for the\ud movement of multi‐habitat species into, along and from adjacent land use areas. For instance, invasive\ud plants may escape into a national park from domestic gardens while wildlife may forage on garden\ud plants in adjoining residential areas. It is at these interfaces that human interactions too flow\ud backward and forward between land types. Spray applications of substances by farmers on cropland\ud may disturb neighbouring homeowners while suburban residents may help themselves to farm\ud produce on neighbouring orchards. Edge environments are some of the most dynamic and contested\ud spaces in the landscape. Since most of us require access to at least two or three habitats diurnally,\ud weekly, monthly or seasonally, their proximity to each other becomes critical in our attempts to\ud improve the sustainability of our cities

Topics: 120107 Landscape Architecture, Landscape Ecology, Sustainability, Cities, China
Publisher: China Architecture & Building Press
Year: 2011
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