Native Vegetation

Native Vegetation – Seeing (more than) the Forest For the Trees

On the coast of British Columbia the trees are pretty obvious. However, on closer examination there is more variation that one might think. Our region is uncommonly diverse – its not all just “pine trees”!

Native vegetation stewardship entails managing native plant communities at the interface with human communities and activities…or…more often, managing the human footprint. Distinguishing what’s appropriate for a native plant community  requires local ecological expertise – whether a park, a stretch of shoreline, a roadside, a favoured patch of ‘woods’ or ‘meadow’, an endangered ecosystem. JPH has been recognized by BC Parks for applying site specific ecological principles in vegetation management for such iconic places such as Cathedral Grove, Rathtrevor Beach and Shannon Falls. The Rathtrevor Vegetation Management Plan became the template for several subsequent plans in the Province.

Wherever humans settle, work or travel – there is a risk for direct, often inadvertent, changes to the local flora. Rare plant communities can be wiped out without foresight, planning and good design. This has been the historical trend affecting such well-loved plant communities as the Garry oak plant community variants of Southern Vancouver Island. A cornerstone of JPH’s design practice has been understanding, working with and preserving native vegetation.

SE Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are home to provincially- and even nationally rare/endangered ecosystems, and individual species. Often, development proponents are not even aware that they have them. Perhaps the most publicly-recognized, is the complex of Garry oak-dominated plant communities. Others include: vernal meadows, seepage areas over bedrock, and maritime riparian communities (back-of-beach). Less obvious, is unaltered coastal Douglas fir forest – in its most natural form, an increasingly rare plant community.

Native Vegetation – The Trees

Development without some inkling of forest health, construction impacts or windthrow dynamics – raises risks of personal injury and property damage from trees falling after site clearing. On the other hand, windfirm, handsome and healthy trees are an asset in any development. JPH has been an arborist for many years (ISA certified through to 2010) and is well-qualified to prepare your tree management plan – to reduce your risks, and as required by many municipalities for development permitting.

Native Vegetation Management Begins With Careful Site Planning

The root of the word “management” is, of course, ‘man’.  A biologist might endeavor to restrict or absolutely exclude people from a rare or threatened ecosystem – to protect it. We argue, whenever people have access (virtually everywhere near any community), they must be considered  integral to any ecosystem with which they interact. Based on experience, we take this as a ‘given’ – and then develop site design strategies to reduce or eliminate human impacts – while at the same time, drawing attention to the beauty and fragility that is there. An example is Cathedral Grove – where our vegetation management recommendations focused on reducing impacts to the forest and banks of the Cameron River – through management of pedestrian movements on properly routed pathways. This is a core skill set for landscape architects

With new development, much time and consulting fees can be saved by having us undertake a preliminary assessment of your site – before site plans are commenced. As landscape architects, site planning is at the core of our training and expertise. Landscape architects are the only professional design discipline in BC for which site planning and design is the primary focus in their professional education. Following that education they are the only profession in BC that must take and pass specific internationally-sanctioned exams in site design, site grading and environmental planning in their professional internship and registration process.

Combine that advantage with JPH’s expertise of native vegetation and landscape ecology and you get:

  1. better integration of facilities to the site and its surroundings;
  2. avoidance of constraints that regulatory agencies can delay or halt your project over;
  3. a more nuanced look at important site development factors – such as site grading – that can otherwise have major functional and financial costs; and
  4. 21st century design solutions that anticipate a changing climate

Oak and Steel

Applying the advantages outlined above, JPH was able to demonstrate better site functioning, reduced cut/fill costs and City of Nanaimo Design Award-winning (2003) industrial site aesthetics – all the while completely preserving a Garry oak plant community on a parcel purchased to site AJ Forsyth’s industrial warehouse.

“An eye-catching feature of this development is a large work of art featuring a Garry oak tree made from Corten steel. The artwork — created by JPH and plasma-cut by AJ Forsyth — has served as a creative feature on the side of an otherwise blank corrugated wall , as well as promotion of the company’s products and services”. (quoted from GOERT website – following link)

Native Vegetation Consulting Services

Pat Harrison has extensive experience in a broad range of native vegetation matters:

  • For BC Parks – vegetation management plans (Rathtrevor, Cathedral, Stawamish Chief and Shannon Falls)
  • Tree management plans as required for development
  • Sparsely-vegetated ecosystem restoration – Bare Point (Chemainus);  Cinnabar Heights (Nanaimo)
  • Tree appraisal for legal (expert witness) purposes
  • Design of regionally specific plantings based on ‘biogeoclimatic’ zone
  • Marine riparian protection and restoration soils and plantings (i.e. salt tolerant plants native to an active backshore)