Sunday, August 9, 2015

Landscapes of my youth

Sligo Creek

I have fond memories of a hot, humid summer, when I turned 7, collecting tadpoles and algae in the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia. As an even younger child my favorite weekend activity was to ride the miniature train around Pine Lake, and as a teenager my friends and I spent endless hours biking and walking along shady Sligo Creek. I was thus happy to see this under-appreciated corner of the world (the multicultural and middle-class east side of Montgomery County, Maryland is overshadowed by the more glamorous, western neighborhoods of Bethesda, Potomac, and environs) receive some attention in an article, "The Social-Ecological Resilience of an Eastern Urban-Suburban Watershed: The Anacostia River Basin", authored by Craig Arnold and four others. The abstract:
This article develops a new framework -- the institutional-social-ecological dynamics framework (ISED) -- to assess the relationships among institutional change, societal change, and ecological change in evaluating the current and likely future resilience of a small, Eastern, urban-suburban watershed: the Anacostia River watershed in DC and Maryland. A historical case study of the watershed explores the transformations of the watershed across key thresholds, including how legal, governance, and social institutions changed since European colonization and how these changes have affected the ecosystem functioning and social dynamics in the basin. Major drivers of change are identified, including the potential for climate change impact on the watershed and 3 possible futures for the watershed, ranging from hydro-ecological collapse to a greening of the watershed. Finally, watershed governance in the basin is evaluated to determine whether it is adaptive to change. The necessary features of adaptive governance in this particular basin, include watershed-focused governance, restoration and green infrastructure, land use regulation, public engagement, social justice, and monitoring and feedback loops. Law and planning play critical roles in all of these features. Whether the basin will continue to develop and improve its emerging elements of adaptive governance remains to be seen, but several key variables to watch are identified.

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