Ecosystem Services

The use of plants to deliver ecological functions of use to mankind

Time to change how we live – and garden

Today for the first time ever, the UK recorded temperatures in excess of 40°C. Parts of Wennington, a village in East London were consumed by fire. If ever there was a moment to wake up and change how we live, it is now. If we don’t we are individually and collectively committing, in the words

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Seeds of Change

The world is changing, I think we all know that now. In terms of climate and ecology, we probably don’t realise how much and how fast. Climate zones are shifting North and Southwards from the equatorial regions with the most extreme change seen near the poles (4 times the rate of elsewhere). For us in

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Hope Springs Eternal, a Brownfield Site Revisited

This is a follow-up to an article I wrote in 2018, about a brownfield site in Downtown Abu Dhabi. The original article can be found at the end. I was fascinated at the spontaneous self-seeding of plants – all non-native ‘invasive’ plants – that had taken place. Less than a year later, Google maps revealed

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How to create semi-wild seeded xeriscapes in the Middle East

This is last in a four-part series of articles on this subject, somewhat separated from the other three by time, because of COVID. Links to the first parts are at the bottom. In searching for a new way of creating natural, non-irrigated landscapes in the Middle East, I have already shared how certain species, often

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Coppiced treescapes for the Middle East

This is the third in a four-part series. In previous articles (links at bottom) I talked about the spontaneous regeneration on brownfield sites in the UAE and the utilisation of seeded landscapes to create semi-natural ecosystems without irrigation. Another factor of these landscapes would be to make them productive in a way that would enrich

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Why we need treescapes, not just landscapes, in the Middle-East

Landscapes are all about creating micro-climate, or would be, if designed for that goal. Why is this important and what do I mean? Almost all life is contained in a thin crust of soil, a wedge of atmospheric gases, and water. Plants are the principal medium that interacts with and regulates all three. Absolutely nothing

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A New Horticulture: Designing Landscapes for Climate Change

The world is finally, at the last minute, waking up to the impending effects and consequences of climate change. In the scramble to work out what we must do (apart from the obvious cessation of burning fossil fuels), one thing, one factor is looming large: we need to put carbon back into the soil, where

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Rain gardens

Rain gardens are a relatively new approach on how to deal with water in the environment. In the last 10-15 years, there has been a big rise in the use of SUDS (sustainable urban drainage systems), the practice of delaying the entry of rainwater into the drainage system by the use of swales, ditches and

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Biomembranes for living buildings

NOTE: This article was first written in 2006, so some aspects have been updated to reflect current realities. Biomembranes is a term I’m borrowing from biology (the structure bounding a cell) to describe the outer skin of future self-sustaining buildings. I have stated elsewhere that I believe that for the built environment – and therefore

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Biological filtration of ponds

The maintenance of ponds is the one thing that people seem to be the most uncertain about – it seems shrouded in myth and confusion. Some of this is basic ignorance of simple biological structures but this is enhanced, in my view, by the profession’s over-mechanised solutions to obtaining clear water. There is also a

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