Urban landscape ecology

One day workshop:
The University of Wolverhampton, 18th December 2008

Urban landscapes provide many opportunities for practitioners and researchers working in the field of landscape ecology, landscape planning, ecology and environmental protection. There are many aspects of the complexities of urban landscapes that have not yet been adequately studied due to the problems created by the unusual diversity of sizes, shapes and types of landscape constituents. Superimposed on this is a social, cultural and political mosaic that provides its own interest and challenge.

Internationally, landscape ecologists have identified the need for engagement with people and landscapes as one of their ten key challenges for the 21st Century. IALE(UK) invited participants and contributors to a workshop to assess these challenges and to help establish the role of landscape ecology in urban landscape management from a UK perspective.

The workshop provided an opportunity to share ideas and practices and to develop a distinctive perspective on applied urban landscape ecological research in the UK .


Introduction and Overview: Challenges and Thoughts

Dr Christopher Young, University of Wolverhampton
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There are key features of urban landscapes which lend them a particular distinctiveness. These range from particular site microclimatic characteristics through to a highly fragmented landscape mosaic. Traditionally landscape ecology has not truly engaged with urban landscapes at appropriate scales or at the level of detail that their variety demands. Landscape ecologist researchers and practitioners now have an increasingly common language of landscape and a need to engage with each other as the political agenda changes. Those people working in and with urban landscapes have a series of challenges to address, e.g. landscape ‘quality’, that if tackled effectively can help provide the necessary details to decision-makers about the issues needed to properly address the urban landscape

Dr Christopher Young
Senior Lecturer in Geography, School of Applied Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY
c [dot] h [dot] young [at] wlv [dot] ac [dot] uk
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Black Country Living Landscapes

Richard Nyirenda, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country
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An overview of the BCLL project, its current priorities and future directions.

Richard Nyirenda, Project Officer
Black Country Living Landscape, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, 28 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 3AA.
Richard [dot] N [at] bbc [dot] wildlife [dot] org [dot] uk
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Urban Landscape Ecology: lessons learnt from URGENT

Dr Jon Sadler, University of Birmingham
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In the late 1990s NERC created a thematic programme examining the science of the urban environment (URGENT). Several research projects in the programme used a combination of fieldwork and modelling to investigate links between the landscape ecology of a conurbation (West Midlands) and the plant and animals that inhabited the city. Research attention focused on habitat patches, their location and connecting linear features and a wide range of organisms.

The results of the studies indicated that species diversity was affected by urbanization in a number of ways but that this varied markedly according to individual species traits. For invertebrate (beetles and butterflies) on brownfield and wetland sites it was habitat quality rather than connectivity that governed species assembly – there was little evident spatial structuring. Woodland carabids, however, showed patterns related to isolation. Results for mammal were different; theoretical models suggested that water voles depend on their linear habitat for dispersal. On the other hand, the characteristic and often beautiful flora of derelict sites was better developed when other derelict sites were present nearby, suggesting that proximity to nearby derelict sites is important.

The results were consistent with the hypothesis that most urban species are able to move freely around the city. However, there are groups of species (with particular traits) and habitats with particular characteristics (e.g. more stable such as woodlands) where the impact of urbanization is extremely negative.  These findings are augmented by more recent work to identify areas where further research is needed.

Dr Jon Sadler
Reader in Biogeography Department of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT
j [dot] p [dot] sadler [at] bham [dot] ac [dot] uk
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Landscape Ecology – Urban Morphologies and Ecosystem Services

Dr Philip James, University of Salford

Landscape ecology is a holistic science that aims to develop a scientific basis for analysis, planning and management of landscapes.  As such this science has much to offer in the context of the continuing urbanization seen across the globe.  The concept of ecosystem services has recently come to the fore in national and local government policy and is increasing visible in initiatives such as regional and sub-regional green infrastructures.  However, the literature regarding the assessment of ecosystem services, particularly within urban settings is sparse.  Addressing this paucity of guidance is a challenge which landscape ecologists are well placed to address.  In order to stimulate debate on this issue this presentation will contain a summary of two studies conducted in Salford and Manchester that assess open natural space in urban cores and examines relationships between urban morphologies and ecosystem services.  The second example leads to some initial thoughts on assessing ecosystem services at the neighbourhood scale.

Dr Philip James
Director of Urban Nature, Urban Nature, Research Institute for the Built and Human Environment, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Salford, Peel Building, The Crescent, Salford, Greater Manchester, England, M5 4WT.
P [dot] James [at] Salford [dot] ac [dot] uk
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Accessible Natural Greenspace Standards in Practice

Chris Gordon, Natural England
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Since its creation  Natural England has been committed facilitating opportunities for more people to enjoy the outdoors more often.  However the evidence to support the importance of access to the natural environment has been patchy. 

Natural England believes that day to day access to nature and greenspaces is important for health and wellbeing.  In order to test and promote a number of pilot projects focusing on the Accessible Natural Greenspace Standard developed in the 1990’s. 

The pilot projects have been chosen can deliver one or all of the following themes, enhancing naturalness, enhancing access and enhancing connection, or any combination, or all three. Further, in line with Natural England’s ethos, the pilot projects have been chosen that have the values exhibiting equitable provision of green space; hence, everyone including the most disadvantaged and under-represented communities will benefit from easy access to natural green space close to home. Projects have also been given preference in locations where there is a deficiency in the provision of access to nature

In his presentation Chris will briefly outline the Natural England policy context for Accessible Natural Greenspace Standards; introduce the standards and the pilots; highlight some of the baseline results and highlight a few questions this work raises.

Chris Gordon
Senior Specialist Scenarios, Strategy & Environmental Futures Team, Natural England, Northminster House, Peterborough, PE1 1UA.
Chris [dot] Gordon [at] naturalengland [dot] org [dot] uk


Post industrial patch recovery in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

Professor Tim Collins, University of Wolverhampton

A case study of work completed in the USA looking at issues of public space and ecology.

Professor Tim Collins
Associate Dean, School of Art and Design, University of Wolverhampton, Molineux Street, Wolverhampton,  WV3 9DY.
timcollins [at] wlv [dot] ac [dot] uk
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