Aesthetics and Ecological Restoration: A Novel Approach to Achieving Client Buy-in at the Site Scale

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Mary Anne Young , Virginia Burt

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The core theories underlying the practice of ecological restoration are most applicable to landscape-scale restoration, and implementation techniques for smaller scales focus largely on conservation oriented projects and public lands. At the site scale, there are opportunities to adapt ecological restoration techniques to restore ecological function to small, privately owned properties so they can contribute to a positive way to their surrounding landscape. However, private landowners may be resistant to the “wild” or “messy” aesthetic of a true ecological planting design, given their familiarity with traditional ornamental landscapes. Client buy-in along with ecological integrity can be achieved by creating beautiful landscape designs based on analogues from surrounding reference ecosystems by following a simple process; a palette of plants is distilled from key species of plants found in the reference ecosystem, these plants are then arranged to complement the proposed buildings and paths, understory planting occurs at a high density with a variety of sizes of planting stock, and management after installation occurs to the point of plant establishment. Where possible, plants and other features (boulders, woody debris, soil) are salvaged and re-used. Project examples will be provided where these techniques were applied to residential development projects in the Muskoka Lakes region of Ontario, Canada where shorelines of freshwater lakes are densely populated with cottages interspersed within a largely natural landscape matrix of mixed forest. Without applying an aesthetic approach to restoration, client buy-in to the use of native plants and landscape analogues on these projects may not have been achieved.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program