The Living Landscape Function Calculator:

A design tool for incorporating ecological function into planned landscapes

Updated January 2021

          Originally drawing on the methodology of the PSI (now FQAI) and the layout of the charts in The Living Landscape, the development process will create a calculator that will put the various functions into a decimal rating system with values either 0.0 or 1.0. With the initial categories, ten for Ecological Function and eleven for Landscape Function, an individual plant could be considered on its collective services as well as comparing plants across a broad spectrum of qualities.

        We have achieved our first set of funding goals and have contracted and paid for the Living Landscape Function Calculator, and supporting website, to be created. The web developer, is working on basic design, online launch scheduled for mid-March 2021.

       The guiding idea has been to do detailed research in order to fill the original 21 columns with data. But that seems like a far-off goal. So, we decided to pursue a suggestion from Amy Highland at Mt. Cuba Center. Start with a binary version of the database. In its original published form, it’s already a yes or no value expressed as a symbol, easy to change to zero or one. Doug Tallamy and Rick Darke have agreed with the idea.

            Similar to the FQAI, once a list of plants on a given site are recorded, then uploaded to the Living Landscape Function Calculator (LLFC) website, the online calculator will compute several measures of ecological and landscape function. Reports can be printed from the website to be included in design documents or site analysis.

            Individuals can also search the database for plants by each of the functions in the tables.

Additionally, once fully funded, the LLFC will have another level of analysis that will offer additional scores for plant communities. Because plant communities, not just individual plants, are best able to accomplish the four core functions; Maintain Food Webs, Sequester Carbon (in plants and soil), Manage the Watershed, and Support Pollinators. As the population of plants in a particular plant community increases the score will go up. The site will offer prompts to aid in the fulfillment of plant community populations, offering suggestions of plants that should be included.

            One benefit of this calculator would be to bridge the gap between current research and those who are designing and installing landscape plantings. There is an ever-growing, diverse body of research that is not readily available or easily translatable to the individuals working in the office or the field. Putting this research into a data table with decimal values allows anyone to access the information in a meaningful way.

          We currently have a GoFundMe campaign to raise what we need to put the database online and support the website and the research needed to carry the project forward. Our non-profit, Environmental Metrics Unlimited, a 501(c)3, serves as the base organization, under the guidance of the Urban Affairs Coalition in Philadelphia. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to upgrade the existing website and put the database online.

          Currently, we have raised over $5,000 to launch the website and database in a binary form.

We welcome any ideas and suggestions to inform the development of the Living Landscape Function Calculator.

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