Principles of Ecological Landscape Design

Across the world there is an increasing demand that designed landscapes, from public parks to backyards should not only be attractive and functional, but also sustainable. Designed landscapes bring the built environment together with plants to create their systems but these tend to be wasteful and in need of constant help from us to maintain its stable state. For a designed landscape to become sustainable on its own we have to look into the ecology of the landscape. Look into things such as what are the systems in an ecosystems and understand how they interact with each other, how a system can be used for other purposes besides just designing a sustainable outdoor space and how it can be relevant to an arid environment.

In every ecosystem there are factors that determine whether or not the ecosystem would survive or die. The American ecologist Raymond Lindeman researched into what systems play a role in an ecosystem and focused on trophic or energy availing interactions.

In his research he states the trophic levels to be within three categories; producers, consumers and decomposers each having multiple trophic levels to them. When the trophic levels are transferring energy to each other there needs to be a proper ratio of transfer. If that ratio is leaned one way the balance could be thrown off and cause the trophic levels to collapse as one could take over another. On the other hand if the trophic levels are maintaining the transfer of energy within the proper ratio; then the ecosystem can be sustainable and stable.

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This way of thinking can be used to benefit society in different ways. One way ecological design can benefit our society is by using an ecological system that can clean our waters naturally such as the Wastewater system in the resort called El Monte Sagrado. John Todd an ecological designer created the Living Machine which is the centerpiece of the whole wastewater system. The system is able to clean waste water from the resort by using bacterial decomposers and then utilizing that water for its play pond and irrigation systems. In doing so this allows consumers such as the guests to enjoy what’s produced from plants that receives water from the the system. Another way to use the idea of ecological design is through the use of plant systems to remediate contaminated areas. As an example there can be an old gas station that has contaminated the ground with chemicals. Those chemicals could go to the surrounding areas and cause damage to either plant life or contaminate the water tables nearby. Through a redesign of the landscape a designer can use a system of plants that have the ability to contain and break down any toxins in the ground naturally, this process is known as Phytoremediation.

Ecological design is extremely versatile when it comes to its application. In arid environments soil qualities can be very poor and not allow plant life flourish on its own. Therefore soil quality needs to be accommodated with chemicals to grow or cultivate plants and in turn makes it not sustainable. A way around this is through the use of Aquaponics which uses a system of fish and plants to naturally grow both plants and protein from fish. Another example of ecological design is the use of a plants to filter, clean and reuse water. Just like the system at the Springs Preserve where they constructed a wetland to take in waste water from their buildings and run it through the wetland and in turn allows the water to not have to be replaced.

Travis Beck brought forth the importance of ecological design in the built environment. I see this as being the next step to how a designer can become better in there design when they start considering the ecology. Especially within an arid environment where resources are limited and the environment is unrelenting.

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Principles of Ecological Landscape Design. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from

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