Engineering With Nature

Engineering With Nature Using Native Plants

Plants are often “keystone” species that hold together entire ecosystems and important for many ecological processes to occur. Plant communities in the built environment can provide structure, function and natural processes to create a sustainable landscape. They are a critical component of energy flow in the ecosystems and provide food and habitat for many organisms in an ecological community. Other functions and services include: reduction of wind and water erosion, water storage, regulation of temperature, contribution of atmospheric oxygen and carbon storage.

Using plant communities is a shift in emphasis, away from a fixed design held at a static moment, to a dynamic design allowing for these communities to grow and mature over time. Plant communities not only survive, but are adaptable to changing environmental conditions. Native plant communities have natural resiliency built into them by genetic and species biodiversity, which allows for greater survivability.

EWN Using Native Plant Communities

In April 2015, a three-part webinar series titled ‘Engineering With Nature Using Native Plant Communities’ was presented by Dr. Pamela Bailey, Research Botanist/Landscape Architect of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center. Webinar series dates and times were:

  • Webinar 1: Introduction and Design Concepts.
  • Wednesday, April 1 at 1:00 p.m., Central Daylight Time(CDT)
  • View PDF <news/npc/Brief_3_BaileyIntroductionAndDesignConcepts.pdf>
  • Webinar 2: National Vegetation Classification and Plant Resources.
  • Wednesday, April 8 at 1:00 p.m. CDT
  • View PDF <news/npc/Brief_4_BaileyNationalVegetationClassificationAndPlantResources.pdf>
  • Webinar 3: Design Case Studies
  • Wednesday, April 15 at 1:00 p.m. CDT
  • View PDF <news/npc/Brief_5_BaileyDesignCaseStudies.pdf>

To obtain an electronic copy of the EWN Design Manual, click here. View PDF <pub/EWN_Design_Manual.pdf>

The goal of this design manual will describe how to utilize plant communities within the built environment to create sustainable landscapes. The design manual identifies and documents the use of native plants to provide engineered design elements that consider the diverse range of Corps water resource projects.

  1. The first aspect of this Design Manual addresses why we need to pay attention to our native plant communities and to frame why native plants are important to the Corp’s mission.
  2. Secondly, understanding how to use these plant resources available on Corps lands nationwide and how to incorporate native plant communities into our projects by describing specific tools and techniques to survey, plan, design, construct, maintain and monitor will be discussed. Design and scientific components are blended together into a holistic approach, so this manual is accessible to many people with varied professional backgrounds.
  3. The third aspect is to give specific case studies of well designed, built examples of landscape elements using native plant communities. The advantage of this approach is to reduce construction and operating costs, while increasing benefits to the environment.