Posts relating to regenerative design, transition and co-creation for eco-smart holistic human habitats facilitating a restorative green-blue circular economy of proximity

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Ecosystem Design for Community Settlement Planning

Ecosystem Design using Pattern Language

-Using forest ecology as analogy to define ecosystem planning for settlement design / urban planning

It is possible to look at (observe and study) complete functioning climax ecosystems, to identify forms and functions within this climax community:

Forms: (plants, animals, structures - trees, rocks, fungi, microbes etc)
Functions: (nitrogen fixers, decomposers, self-seeders, perennials, pollinators, burrowers, scavengers, predators, herbivores etc).

Image : The form and functions of a chicken. source:

With this recipe of forms and functions which make up the 'dish' that is a climax ecosystem, we can see how ecosystems evolve, in a process - ecosystem processes, enabling the emergence of successive support systems (ecosystem services) which enable further, yet more complex energetic (economic) and cultivational (cultural) processes (activties) to take place.

Using a forest ecology as an example, this is achieved through a combination of processes referred to as biological succession, leading to a state of dynamic equilibrium and therefore, self perpetuation.

successive layers of processes and functions that facilitate the emergence of increasingly complex support systems for increasingly complex organisms to exists - from single cell, microbial, fungal, multi-cellular, vegetative and insectory to fish, reptilian and mammalian.
The yield of an ecological system is theoretically unlimited, only limited by limiting factors, resources can be intentionally supplied by human intervention in an ecological system, simple forms of cultivation / silviculture , or positive human interventions are:

habitat creation and restoration ecology e.g via:
the addition/creation of soil and humus - composting, in order that plants can grow
introducing seeds, plants, trees to speed up natural processes of migration in order to create biodiversity
introduction of beneficial insects - pollinators and predators to improve pollination and biological pest control
introduction of fish repltiles and animals as active agents in ecosystem processes and as support species for other organisms, including humans.

Soil, plants, insects, trees, animals and geological features all perform ecosystic services, all form part of the support systems foir increasing complex forms and functions of a living ecological system.

A very simplified example would be introducing soil supports plants, including planbts supports herbivores, introducing herbivores supports decomposition decomposition feeds the soil, which feeds planst which feeds herbivores...


Thus we know by observation and understanding what/which components are present and what functions and processes exist within the ecosystem. there is no waste in nature, in natural processes from molecular to landscape or regional events, there is no waste, only change this is a law of thermodynamics.

There are universal transferable concepts, for both form and functions.

Universal Forest Structure
Image Source:

Forest Gardening see a summary and Knowledgebase  see also here

In the diagram above, we can see a typical 7-layered forest system, comprised of (plant examples given for temperate climates)
  1. Climax Layer - Upper Canopy (Sweet Chestnut, Cherry, Pear, Victoria Plum)
  2. Small Tree Layer - Lower Canopy or Sub-Canopy (Hazel, Crab Apple, Fig, Medlar, - dwarfing trees)
  3. Climbers and Vines (Kiwi, Grape, Passion Fruit, Runner Beans)
  4. Shrubs, and understorey bushes (Blackcurrant, Gooseberry, Raspberry, Eleagnus)
  5. Herbaceous perenennials and annuals (Mint, Chives, Fennel, Rhubarb)
  6. Ground Cover (Strawberries, Clover, Ramsons)
  7. Root Layer - Roots and Rhizosphere ( Parsnips, Welsh Onion, Ground Nut, Garlic and Chives, Jerusalem Artichoke)
So this structure or assembly of 'Form' is universal - common to all forest systems. We can go anywhere on the planet and find the same 7 layers (there can be more layers in more complex systems). The difference being the species which form the layers. In temperate forests we will observe one set of species, in a tropical climate a completely different pallette of plants.

Universal Forest Functions
[​IMG]Image Source: Permaculture Designers' Manual - Bill Mollison 1988 via

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