Ecological Principles of Landscape Management:
Soils and the processes that determine success of landscape designs, farms and plants.


by James P. Ludwig, Ph.D
(December, 2013)

Paperback, 170 pages, ISBN 978-1-49315-301-5.

eBook, 170 pages, ISBN 978-1-49315-302-2.

Available from

Description: During the last decade, many graduate-level Landscape Architecture students have taken our ecology classes tailored to their profession. However, relatively few students training to create attractive living spaces actually had significant basic fundamental knowledge of ecology, chemistry, or soils. These deficiencies became apparent when elegant landscape designs failed because plants did not thrive, grew poorly, or even died. Similarly, many farmers and gardeners are ill-equipped to understand the complexity of their soils, interpret soil testing data, and appreciate natural soil processes affecting their crops. Other problems arise when storm water pulses in urban, suburban, or farmed settings cause flooding, erosion, or slope failures. These problems can be addressed successfully with basic knowledge of soils, soil mechanics, hydrology, and ecology. Failure to appreciate the inexorable natural processes affecting soils increases the probability that a landscape plan - however elegant and pleasing the design - or a crop will fail to grow and perform as expected. Similarly, many friends and businesses whom we have evaluated have experienced repeated failures in the management of their home sites and commercial or industrial properties. The problems arising from the lack of this critical knowledge can be very expensive for the professional or individual. Repeated failures with inadequate plant performance prepared by a professional designer bode ill for a career. All too often, professionals have been replaced by the municipalities, corporations, and developers who hired them after easily prevented failures emerged owing to inadequate basic ecological and soils training. For the individual land or business owner who tries to manage a difficult property, or if one has the proverbial 'black thumb,' these failures lead to great personal frustration, a deep sense of inadequacy, and abandonment of vision and goals. Sometimes, owners simply opt for an engineered 'hardscape' that obliterates the ecological and natural value of a well-managed landscape. Farmers may see their incomes fall when seemingly intractable conditions develop. For the most part, these are preventable problems that can be avoided by sound ecological management and basic knowledge of how soils develop, interact, and function with the plants they nurture in the local climate. This book has been compiled to address the fundamental aspects of plant ecology and soils for the landscape professional, farmer, and individual alike. However, it is not intended for the professional ecologist, soil scientist, or agronomist. The most important aspects of these fields have been 'cherry-picked,' and much was omitted for this book. Specialists will find this book incomplete and probably too generalized. Regardless, the principles of effective soils management for competent ecological designs are the same for the landscape designer, homeowner, organic gardener, or farmer. In the 21st century, we can no longer afford to pay the replacement costs of failed plantings, or any sort of site repair or redevelopment. Resource depletion, the increasingly critical need to recycle lands including whole landscapes (especially in urban settings), and ever rising input costs for all forms of management support an argument for a practical manual that addresses the ecological fundamentals of good land and soil management at every level. New concepts for land management emerge every day as economic stressors force every organization and professional to look at issues and ideas long forgotten such as gardening to raise a significant portion of minimally contaminated food by families living in urban and suburban settings. Our societies are changing rapidly. Human population densities continue to increase rapidly even as resources become ever more scarce and expensive.

Table of Contents:

  • Chapter 1. Basic Ecological Concepts for Landscapes and Soils
  • Chapter 2. Fundamentals of Soil Structure and Chemistry
  • Chapter 3. Soil Dynamics
  • Chapter 4. Applying Ecological Principles and Knowledge of Soils to Sites or Projects
  • Chapter 5. Maintaining Soil Health and Productivity of Farms
  • Chapter 6. Hydrology and Stormwater Management
  • Chapter 7. Very large landscape reclamation programs: Mines
  • Chapter 8. Stormwater Management in Existing Exemplary Projects
  • Chapter 9. The Ethics of Large-Scale Restorations
  • Literature Cited
  • Appendices on wetland restorations by William E. Young, Landscape Architect:
    • I. The Green Cay Wetland
    • II. The Brooklyn Union Gas Estuary Wetland Restoration

About the author: James P. Ludwig was born in Port Huron, Michigan in 1941 and is a dual Canadian-American citizen. He earned a Ph.D at the University of Michigan in 1968 and published 52 peer-reviewed articles on chemical contamination and the ecology of the Great Lakes between 1961 and 2013, focusing on colonial waterbirds. He collaborated with many government and academic scientists from both the US and Canada for over forty years and watched the inexorable deterioration of the Great Lakes under neo-liberal governments of both nations. He continues to monitor changes in Great Lakes' bird populations and their ecology, relating these environmental changes to public policy during his (semi-)retirement years.

acorn1 transp

© quercus arborealis publications, 2010–2016