Professional Practice

Resilient Design: Biodiversity Loss

Humans rely heavily on the services that nature provides. The value of these services, such as food, water, medicine, and other resources, was estimated to be $125 trillion per year in 2011. The integrity of these systems is under threat from climate change and human activity, particularly agriculture. Farming activities use 40 percent of the planet’s land, according to National Geographic. That use is only expanding as the human population increases. 

The resultant biodiversity loss has a severe impact on these ecosystem services and works to undermines long term resilience and general human well-being. Extinction rates vary widely, but several scientists agree that human activity has induced an extinction crisis among wildlife and plant life that threatens to undermine human survival. Maintaining biodiversity in these systems is critical to their survival, as diversity is central to system resilience and function.

How Resilient Planning and Design Helps

Communities must accommodate wildlife and native plants. Services that natural ecosystems provide should be taken into account when planning new agriculture and development. Agriculture should prioritize ecological health and plant diversity, as opposed to homogenized and destructive mono-cultures. Restorative tactics, such as the design of wildlife corridors and habitat restoration, can help reinvigorate ecosystems.


Designing to sustain and increase biodiversity enhances the quality and quantity of services that ecosystems provide. This includes everything from medicine to food to recreation areas. Restoration projects can also serve as a way to build communities.

Role of the Landscape Architect  

Landscape architects can reconcile the needs of communities and healthy ecosystems in order to serve both. Landscape architects can design corridors that are not only public parks but also facilitate wildlife movement through human developments, allowing both wildlife and humans to coexist. Landscape architects can design plant communities and ecosystems that are not only beautiful but also increase ecosystem services. In addition, designers can adapt these designed ecosystems to the stresses of urban life, using the approaches of biophilic urbanism. 

wildlife-crossingBanff Wildlife Crossing / Image Credit:

Relevant Projects 

Orongo Station Conservation Masterplan, Poverty Bay, New Zealand, NBWLA

The Banff Wildlife Crossing, Alberta, Canada, Parks Canada and Tony Clevenger 

Harvard Yard Restoration, Cambridge, MA, MVVA

Greenest City Action Plan, Vancouver, Canada

Breathe: The Future of Edmonton's Green Network, Edmonton, Canada 

Plan NYC Reforestation Initiative, New York, NY  

Toronto's Green Roofs Bylaws, Toronto, Canada  

Toronto Green Standard, Toronto, Canada 

ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Honor Award, Tianjin Qiaoyuan Park, Tianjin City, China, Turenscape

ASLA 2011 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award, Menomonee Valley Restoration, Mequon, WI, Landscapes of Place, LLC

Seven Ponds Farm, Virginia, NBWLA

ASLA 2013 Professional Analysis and Planning Honor Award, Ningbo Eco-Corridor - 3.3 km Living Filter, Ningbo, China, SWA Group 

San Francisco Estuary Preserve, San Francisco, CA  


Designing for the Full Range of Biodiversity, The Dirt blog

What Role Can Landscape Architects Play in Designing Wildlife Habitats?, The Dirt blog

Biophilic Cities Lead the Way to Urban Sustainability, The Dirt blog  

Thomas Rainer: There Are No Mulch Circles in the Forest, The Dirt blog 

Why Are Animals Dying on Our Roads?, ARC Solutions

Interview with Janine Benyus on Designing Like Nature, ASLA  

Interview with Nina-Marie Lister on Ecological Urbanism, ASLA

Interview with Kristina Hill on Climate Change and Biodiversity, ASLA

Interview with Os Schmitz on Recovering Polluted Ecosystems, ASLA  

Designing Neighborhoods for People and Wildlife, ASLA

Recreating Wildlife Habitat in Cities, The Dirt blog

Introduction to Streamside Buffer Zones, Miami Conservancy

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