Quantified Plant and Soil Health and Living Infrastructure

Quantified Plant and Soil Health and Living Infrastructure

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Full video of the presentation available here.

Urban Forestry around the world is investing in ambitious projects that can be described as Green Infrastructure, consisting of ‘green assets’ such a soil health , trees, parks and gardens that provided functional value. 

When integrated with stormwater management approaches consisting of ‘blue assets’ such as raingardens, bio-retention, and infiltration systems, Blue-Green (Living) Infrastructure emerges, and is a much more powerful tool, in addressing accelerating climate change and the risks associated with Urban Heat Island Effect (UHIE).

Living Infrastructure that incorporates detailed understanding of  natural systems,  provide sustainable triple bottom line (3BL) 1) ecological, 2) amenity and 3) economic benefits.

This meansPlant and Soil Health and Watercan be viewed as Living Infrastructure and should be viewed as being no different from Grey Infrastructure (buildings, roads, and other urban constructions) investment that provides essential services.  Design, construction, and maintenance of Grey Infrastructure is structured and complex and this is also true for Living Infrastructure.  

A multidisciplinary approach is required to deliver Living Infrastructure.

Industries that work in silos will not be effective in the long term success of  delivery of Living Infrastructure.  

Standard industry approaches must change, and evolve, with a focus on multidisciplinary collaboration.

Living Infrastructure must include a whole of systems approach, above and below ground knowledge and assessment of Water Cycle and Soil and Plant Health.

In 2018 Matthew Daniel and Owen Richards came together after identifying synergies within respective disciplines attributed to failing urban green assets.  Their collaborative insights and assessment of several project sites has defined a new method, theIntegrated Water & Soil Regenerative Method (IWSRM). The IWSRM is a collaborative method where specialist Arboriculturists and Environmental Engineers communicate, measure, and provide evidence-based knowledge and assessment of specific site natural system function.  Matthew and Owen have identified that Urban Water Cycle and Plant and Soil Health are interconnected and in many cases are damaged beyond self-repair, ultimately deemed unsustainable in a changing climate. This leaves trees prone to a plethora of plant Health Care issues including poor canopy function, root development and pathogen activity.  This has a cascading effect on natural system health status reducing the capacity of Living Infrastructure to maintain or improve health status, provide microclimates, retaining moisture to cool cities and increasing soil carbon to clean air.

The effective integration of the two typically siloed disciplines 1) Arboriculture and 2) Environmental Engineering within the IWSRM has shown to be able to maximise 3BL benefits and climate adaptiveness of bespoke Living Infrastructure Solutions. 

Here is the link to the "Book of Fail" for those interested in more information on the research.