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Ecological Systems Maintaining and Enhancing Natural Features and Minimizing Adverse Impacts of Infrastructure Projects Course Review.

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Presentation on theme: "Ecological Systems Maintaining and Enhancing Natural Features and Minimizing Adverse Impacts of Infrastructure Projects Course Review."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ecological Systems Maintaining and Enhancing Natural Features and Minimizing Adverse Impacts of Infrastructure Projects Course Review

2 Emily Mitchell Ayers, Ph.D. The Low Impact Development Center, Inc.

3 Human activities often have adverse environmental impacts Learning to design infrastructure systems that successfully integrate with the environment requires an understanding of ecology and a knowledgebase of sustainable design techniques Key Message 7-3

4 To become familiar with the basic principles of ecology To learn to anticipate the ecological impacts of infrastructure projects over their entire life cycles from planning to decommissioning To learn techniques to prevent, minimize, and mitigate these impacts To learn how to design infrastructure systems that contribute to productive, environmentally restorative and socially desirable uses of land and protection of native flora and fauna Course Objectives 7-4

5 1. Course Overview: Ecosystem services and the importance of ecologically-sensitive design 2. Introduction to Ecology: Ecological theory 3. Impacts of Infrastructure: What are the major ecological impacts caused by infrastructure, and how do infrastructure projects cause these impacts? Modules of the Course 7-5

6 4. Protecting Habitat: Assessing habitat, prioritizing and creating conservation areas 5. Integrating Infrastructure: How to design infrastructure projects that work in harmony with their surroundings 6. Restoring Ecological Function: An overview of the general theory of ecosystem restoration, with examples of restoration in specific contexts Modules of the Course 7-6

7 Ecosystems provide essential services on which humans depend Provisioning services Regulating services Supporting services Cultural services Disturbance of ecosystems can lead to loss or degradation of ecosystem services Ecosystem Services 7-7

8 What are ecosystems? What principles govern ecosystem behavior? How do ecosystems respond to change? Introduction to Ecology 7-8

9 Ecosystem: a unit that consists of living and non-living components interacting to form a system Ecosystems are made up of populations of species organized into communities interacting with their physical environment Ecosystems are almost always open systems with inputs and outputs What is an Ecosystem? 7-9

10 Ecosystems develop complex feedback mechanisms to conserve materials and energy. Organisms self-organize into food webs and nutrient cycling pathways. Each species inhabits a unique ecological niche, and plays a role in maintaining the system. Keystone species play essential roles. Loss can disrupt ecological function. What Principles Govern Ecosystem Behavior? 7-10

11 Ecosystems are always changing, either due to pulsing predator/prey relationships, disturbance, or gradual succession from pioneer to climax systems Ecosystem stability is described in terms of resistance to change and resilience Stability depends on biodiversity, size, location, and connectivity How Do Ecosystems Respond to Change? 7-11

12 What ecological impacts are associated with infrastructure? How do ecosystems become degraded? What are the local, national, and global implications? Impacts of Infrastructure 7-12

13 Habitat loss Habitat fragmentation Pollution Altered river and estuary hydrology Climate change Road kills What Ecological Impacts Are Associated With Infrastructure? 7-13

14 Direct habitat loss Habitat fragmentation Damage to physical environment Chemical toxicity Hunting and harvesting Introduction of exotic species How Do Ecosystems Become Degraded? 7-14

15 Habitat loss and fragmentation Depletion of fresh water resources Eutrophication Hydromodification Air pollution Impacts in the United States 7-15

16 Depletion of fresh water resources Climate change Excessive nutrient loading Loss of biodiversity Habitat loss Global Impacts 7-16

17 1. Know where you are 2. Avoid sensitive areas 3. Minimize infrastructure impacts 4. Mitigate unavoidable losses 5. Improve ecological function where possible Ecologically-Sensitive Design Process 7-17

18 Site assessment Identifying critical resources Conservation design techniques Protecting Habitat 7-18

19 Ecologically-sensitive design begins with a thorough site assessment Identify important habitat areas Understand how site fits into larger regional landscape Site Assessment 7-19

20 Conserve the most important habitat areas Viable, intact communities Vulnerable, rare, or sensitive communities Endemic communities (locally unique) Maintain and improve connectivity to promote wildlife movement Identifying Critical Resources 7-20

21 Focus development in areas that are: Previously disturbed Fragmented At the edges rather than the center of intact communities Maintain and improve connectivity to promote wildlife movement Conservation Design 7-21

22 Integrating Infrastructure The energy signature Anticipating infrastructure impacts Minimizing infrastructure impacts 7-22

23 The Energy Signature Infrastructure projects interact with the ecosystems in which they are situated Minimizing infrastructure impacts requires understanding and protecting the energy signature of the ecosystem Energy signature: the set of forcing functions affecting an ecosystem 7-23

24 Forcing Functions Sunlight level Temperature Precipitation Hydrologic regime Fire regime Inputs Organic matter Nitrogen Phosphorus 7-24

25 Maintain pre-development hydrology Maintain pre-development nutrient inputs Minimize pollution Maintain pre-development plant cover Avoid introduction of exotic invasive species Key Considerations for Infrastructure 7-25

26 Basic principles of ecological restoration Focus on function, not appearance Rely on self-organization as much as possible Examples of restoration techniques Streams Wetlands Lakes and Ponds Upland ecosystems Restoring Ecological Function 7-26

27 Consult with experts Remove barriers to ecological function Establish key species to jump-start self- organization Provide connectivity to existing habitat Be patient! Basic Principles of Ecological Restoration 7-27

28 Multiple choice Covers material from each module Tests understanding of key concepts Application of principles Examination 7-28


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