Landscape ecology of urban forests: enhancing ecosystem services

Ljubljana on a sunny day

Green valleys filled with masses of wild meadows and blooming orchards in the winter, and golden-brown limestone covered hills in the summer, this accurately describes the landscape of this small island in the Eastern Mediterranean. The spring and autumn at its best lasts no more than couple of weeks hence we very rarely refer to these two seasons. Cold, windy and extremely wet in the winter and just like flick of the switch it is hot, dusty and dry. These are the conditions I encounter here in Cyprus. I am a UK trained landscape architect whom by a very lucky chance had the opportunity to take on this challenge.

View across Minitis Hills

I work on a high end residential project set on the hills of Paphos on the west coast of the island. It is 500m above the sea nested on a ridge.  The project is vast, it spans over five million square metres where most of it will be left to untamed nature. The built area only covers 2% of the total project. It also falls inside a Natura 2000 site, which is a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union. Because of this unique situation we work closely with the external environmental engineers and feed on their invaluable information.  Apart from celebrating the local vegetation by restoring any damaged landscape with local species we will also make reptile tunnels under the road, place stone piles to encourage nesting birds to settle and incorporated green corridors for our little friends.  

I have now been here for 7 years and I came at the very begging of the project, even today it is still quite unusual to employ landscape architects on a permanent basis for a project in Cyprus.  As in many other Mediterranean countries this line of work is done by the architects, often with very little training or experience in any field of work in landscape. At Minthis Hills the construction company Pafilia Property Developers understood the importance of this site and they had a strong vision and understood the importance of the landscape for this project.
The initial masterplan was designed by the skilful landscape firm then known as Lovejoy.  They were appointed to formulate the concept of the landscape.  Later the masterplan was taken to next level by Atkins whom literally grounded the next phases of project to the hill side with their roads, plots and public green spaces and the buildings was undertaken by Woods Baggot. All the different disciplines are working with the environment as their main focus.

monica noppa

As for my work it has been enormously challenging and more so rewarding. This project has so many design aspects, both in hard and soft landscape and only recently has the landscape really started to show off all the work that has gone into it all the way from the initial ideas to be dug into the ground. Regarding the planting there has been a lot of trial and error in the beginning however now I have a very balanced planting pallet with plants that made it through the test of surviving several cold wet winters and long dry summers with short periods of drought conditions. We even have in mind when we plant the villa gardens that part of the garden has to be hardy enough to survive without any irrigation after couple of years of planting.

Even after all this time working solemnly on this project it really is just about to begin. There is so much more to do and to perfect that I wonder if even in my life time will there be enough time to accomplish this project in full. 

Photographs are by the author