Soil Biology is Essential for the Landscape to Function – part 1

image: Barrett L. Kays
image: Barrett L. Kays

What is soil biology and why is it important?  Soil is the physical infrastructure for landscapes and ecosystems.  Within the physical infrastructure soil chemistry works in such a close relationship with plant and animal organisms, some say the soil operates as a living biological system.  Soil biology is important because it is a dominant factor in nutrient availability.  Soil contains plants, micro-organisms, and invertebrate and vertebrate organisms which all work together in creating biochemical transformations essential for life.

There are over 4,000 trillion micro-organisms (microbes) such as bacteria, fungi, algae, mold, and protozoa in one acre of soil.  Many of these microbes have a symbiotic relationship with plants and other organisms.  All of the microbes are competing for a limited supply of nutrients and carbon (their food source).  Microbes quickly multiply when there is sufficient soil organic carbon.  When the soil organic carbon is limited the microbe population is diminished.   Therefore, if the landscape soil is designed properly, there are trillions of microbes helping it function.  And, if properly used as a stormwater system, all of these microbes have been put to work as a biological system.

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Dog Parks

image: Deborah Steinberg
image: Deborah Steinberg

You may have heard the phrase a tired dog is a happy dog. This may or may not be true, but it is true that most dogs need physical activity and social interaction to make good pets. Dog parks are a great venue to provide both of these in a safe, contained environment and have become very popular.

However, with popularity comes use, over-use, and risk. The following site outlines common challenges with dog parks and provides suggestions for those thinking of providing one.

Dog Bites and Liability for Dog Bites by Kenneth M. Phillips

Paths Between Neighbors: New Trails in Conservation

The Okanogan Valley image: Jones & Jones
The Okanogan Valley
image: Jones & Jones

Paths Between Neighbors (PBN) is an innovative strategy to get private property owners who have not been actively involved in land conservation excited about and collaborating in land stewardship.  Piloted by the Okanagan Valley Land Trust (OVLT), PBN is being used to further OVLT’s work in preserving the native landscapes, working farms, and ranches across the rugged hills of the Okanogan Highlands in eastern Washington.

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Adapting in the Desert

image: Cary Baird, Stantec Consulting, Inc.
image: Cary Baird, Stantec Consulting, Inc.

Nevada DOT responds to water and budget limitations for landscapes.

Embracing soil as an important player in water conservation, the ASLA Water Conservation Professional Practice Network spotlights the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) Landscape Architecture, where they have adopted a standard policy of “no irrigation” for southern Nevada freeway landscape enhancements.  To respond to that challenge, designers are utilizing porous inorganic amendments as an aid to increase plant-available water in the soil in a region where rainwater harvesting challenges are unique.

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Nature Play and Learning Areas Guidelines

Teardrop Parkimage: Natural Learning Initiative website
Teardrop Park
image: Natural Learning Initiative website

Nature Play and Learning Areas Guidelines is a joint project conducted by the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Learning Initiative, and North Carolina State University, with the support of national partners. The aim is to develop national design and management guidelines for nature areas in children’s outdoor play and learning environments.

The Guidelines Project has issued a Call for Participants in a registry of Nature Play and Learning Areas to support and potentially illustrate the best practice criteria specified in the Guidelines.

For more information and the links to register, visit the Nature Play and Learning Areas Guidelines website.

by Ilisa Goldman, officer of the Children’s Outdoor Environments PPN



As a major pedestrian route the ‘Curtin Corso’ is scheduled for urban renewal bringing much needed focus and activity to the centre of the campus.  image: PLACE Laboratory
As a major pedestrian route the ‘Curtin Corso’ is scheduled for urban renewal bringing much needed focus and activity to the centre of the campus.
image: PLACE Laboratory

Curtin University, in Perth, Western Australia,  has embarked on a massive urban renewal project focused on creating a “knowledge city”.  Code-named Curtin City the project will deliver a new population of students, researchers, and residents of up to 70,000 people living and working in Perth’s newest knowledge economy.  Connected to the city by the MAX light rail transit, Curtin City will be only minutes from downtown Perth, enabling the rapid exchange of business and research ideas.

The Curtin City project is a bold step for the University as it plans for a new future of high-density research and living within a strong landscape urbanism framework.  Building on existing distributed energy systems and green infrastructure networks the campus will be transformed by 2030 as Perth’s urban population grows to 3.5 million.

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National Kids to Parks Day

image: National Park Trust
image: National Park Trust

With National Kids to Parks Day, May 18th, looming right around the corner it would be great for our members to organize activities that bring even more children into the parks we design and love. This article gives you some great options for high profile partners to make your “Kids to Parks Day” a success.

National Park Trust Announces ‘National Kids to Parks Day’ to Take Place Saturday May 18, 2013

by Kathleen Benedict, Co-chair of the Parks and Recreation PPN

Want to help with the HALS Cultural Landscapes of Women Challenge?

Isaac Goodnow House – Manhattan, KS
image: Historic American Buildings Survey; Douglas McCleery, Photographer June 1958

First of all THANK YOU!  Your interest can really help focus national attention on the cultural landscapes of women this year.

Secondly, the HALS short form is easy! It’s neither as exhaustive nor as restrictive as other national historic preservation paperwork you may be familiar with. The National Park Service (NPS) has done a lot of the work for you. Just download and fill out the short form for your selected landscape. You’ll just need some information on the landscape.  If you’d like, include a plan drawing sketch (doesn’t have to be construction worthy, just a quick sketch) or rights free photos. They aren’t necessary – but both great excuses to get out to the site and exercise your hand drawing and photography skills.

Now the hard part: Selecting a Landscape for this Challenge! Where can I find a cultural landscape of or for women? We have listed below several general ideas to start your brainstorming process.

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