An alternative management process that considers natural landscape processes and functions
Campus vegetation faces a number of pressures: infrastructure and utility conflicts, construction encroachment, pedestrian induced compaction, mechanical injury, and vandalism. There are only a few landscapes on the Dalhousie campus where natural regeneration and succession of vegetation is allowed to occur, free of some of the above pressures.
Naturalization is the process of converting highly managed landscapes, such as a lawn, into more naturally functioning landscapes. Both existing and new landscapes can be naturalized by reducing management inputs and by encouraging the colonization of native plant and wildlife species.
In the interest of increasing campus naturalization, two areas in particular have been identified as benefiting from this type of practice:
- Sherrif Hall oak stand: a remnant forest from before the development of the Studley campus. This oak stand contains one of Halifax’s oldest trees, a 250-300 year old red oak (Quercus rubra);
- The Cobequid trail: along the southern edge of the Agricultural Campus. A partnership between the Municipality of Colchester and Dalhousie University has provided an opportunity for a trail system through the naturalized slope overlooking the Salmon River.
A number of practices have been identified to promote regeneration and to bring attention to these sites:
- Fencing-off valuable species as recognized by the grounds supervisor
- Phasing out invasive species (Norway maple);
- Alleviating site compaction by using aeration techniques around valuable trees (water and air injection and radial trenching);
- Modifying management practices (reduce or eliminate mowing in certain areas);
- Allowing understory regeneration or planting selected native species;
- Signaling cues of care to the campus population demonstrating that this project is intentional and not a forgotten space (signage, fencing, seating, and pathways).