Why facts matter
By Ruth Slavid
© Tom Lee
It may be a truism that all our landscapes have, to some degree, been affected by mankind, but how we deal with the conflict between the ‘natural’ and human influence is an unending problem which needs careful consideration in every instance. Every decision that a landscape professional makes will have an impact, and it is not always clear whether that will be for the good – or even exactly what is meant by ‘good’.
Several pieces in this issue tackle those questions, especially in terms of native species and biodiversity. On page 45, researchers at Sheffield University question the dictum that native plants are always the best for biodiversity and the wellbeing of pollinators. They have carried out detailed investigations which show that the use of ‘near-natives’ in planned plantings may produce greater volumes of high-quality pollen and nectar over a longer-period than will occur through a rigid adherence to the use of native plants.
And on page 53, an expert on a new disease of plane trees that threatens this country not only explains the problem but also argues that the threat comes less from the infectious agents than from our approach to management of woodland.
Looking further afield, in fact to the other side of the world, our article on rat eradication in South Georgia (page 37), examines the principality’s ambitious and successful programme and questions how relevant it may be in countries with a wider range of fauna.
These projects all rely on hard facts and careful management, and there is a similarly painstaking approach in the article on page 58 that looks at just how much different paving materials contribute to the urban heat island effect. Although this article deals specifically with the Middle East, the approach would be appropriate anywhere in the world.
Most landscape professionals have good intentions, and want to do the best for their clients, their immediate environment and, ideally, the planet. As the population grows and pressure on resources increases, they will have to make increasingly tough decisions.
It is great that so many professionals’ hearts are in the right place, but good intentions need to be backed up with knowledge rather than mere instinct. We should all be grateful to the professionals who have put in the hard slog that not only solves an immediate problem but also enables many others to make the right decisions – even if sometimes those decisions are difficult. I hope this issue of the journal sheds some light and will encourage you to investigate further.