Plant selection in the landscape is guided by four principles: function, aesthetics, site adaptability, and management. At small-scale sites like gardens or community parks, landscape architects can carefully choose every plant with desired plant size, color, texture, and so on. Is this scalable? Now, imagine a twenty-mile corridor which encompasses diverse land uses, multiple jurisdictions, and a cadre of varying functions. How can we efficiently design large-scale sites such as this? Assistant professor Ryan Perkl from the University of Arizona gives a possible answer.
Perkl specializes in conservation planning and landscape ecology. Leading a team of four graduate students, his current research includes GeoDesigning landscape linkages. In natural landscapes, the site adaptability of plants outweighs the other three principles, therefore “the right plant at the right place” is paramount factor when designing landscapes at larger scales. With the help of GIS (Geography Information System), Perkl and his team create a new method to populate plants according to site capability. Firstly, they collect soil, topography and other environmental data; then a library of native plants and capability surfaces are derived using this information. All plant profiles in the library include plant characteristics and growing requirements, as well as images that can be further used as symbols in GIS. Through an additional series of suitability models which explore vegetation patterns, density, heterogeneity, and linearity various iterations of a potential design may be derived in an automated fashion. The resulting designs represent assemblages of optimal vegetation discretely placed in desired patterns. In short, the result shows the best distribution of varying plants at larger scales.
This method is coined an “Automated Design Module” or ADM for short. It is a holistic analysis of all the related natural factors that affect the growth of plants. Landscape Designers can easily find out what the optimal distributions of their desired plants are, or which plants are most suitable for the sites. I look forward to when this new approach is put into practice, what about you?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.