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Analogue Climates - a design tool  RSS feed

 
Dave Boehnlein
Posts: 294
Location: Orcas Island, WA
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In addition to the work I do here at the Homestead, I also serve as the research coordinator for Exos Design (http://exosdesign.com), a design company started by Douglas Bullock and landscape architect Scott Godfredson. When we do a site assessment one piece that we've started providing is called an Analogue Climates Assessment. I think it is an incredibly powerful tool, so I thought I'd share it with folks here with the hopes that others would make use of it as well.

Basically, we start by creating a climate profile for the site in question. Specifically, we will define the climate in terms of:

  • [li]Annual rainfall[/li]
    [li]Average, maximum, & minimum temperatures[/li]
    [li]Seasonality (When does the rain come? When is it dry? Does it snow?)[/li]


  • In order to find this out we will try to find data collected over a long period of time. If someone in the neighborhood has been recording readings from a backyard weather station, you're in luck! The next best thing is to try to find a nearby weather station where data has been recorded and charts compiled. For the western states, a useful source for this information is the Western Regional Climate Data Center (http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/index.html). Find a weather station that is close to you (not just geographically, but also in terms of elevation). They have information on everything from rainfall and temperatures to average last frost date and snowfall.

    Once you have a fairly good picture of what your climate is like you can start the interesting part. Think about other places in the world with a similar climate. A useful tool to help with this is the Koeppen Climate Classification System (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6ppen_climate_classification). Essentially, this provides a map of the entire world divided into climate types. Figure out which of Koeppen's climate zones your site falls in and look for other places in the world that match. This system looks at climates in low resolution, so it won't tell you exactly where your matches are (Northeastern Illinois is in the same climate zone as South Central Florida). However, it will tell you where to start looking.

    You can also use what you know about biogeography (look at similar north & south latitudes, similar elevations, similar biomes, similar plant communities, etc.). If you're lucky you'll be able to identify similar climates that are very specific (a specific elevation in a specific mountain range, a specific province in a country, etc.)

    Once you identify the other parts of the world with a climate that matches yours you can use this information in a variety of ways.


  • [li]You can look at what comprises the natural ecosystems in these areas. This information can give you clues as to what kinds of plants will grow well where you are. For one project we found an analogue climate where 70% of the dominant forest cover was pistachios, almonds, & pomegranates![/li]

    [li]You can look at the primary agricultural products of these areas. By figuring out what has been traditionally grown as well as what is commercially grown in these areas, you can get a great clue as to some crops to try where you are. We once found an analogue climate for a Northern California site in the Khorasan Province of Iran. This province's primary agricultural products were barberries and saffron. Guess what made our recommended plant list?[/li]

    [li]You can research how indigenous & traditional peoples lived in these areas. What was their architecture like? What materials did they build with? How did they meet their needs? This kind of information is incredibly useful. Before we had the energy glut that followed the industrial revolution people had to live in a way that was responsive to their environment. For example, without the ability to heat and cool buildings with electricity or natural gas, the buildings had to be designed to stay cool in the summer and stay warm in the winter. You can save a lot of energy simply my choosing materials, siting, and designs that match your climate. We can figure out what those materials, siting choices, and designs were by looking at how people traditional did it.[/li]


  • Well, that's the basic deal with analogue climates. Researching this is actually one of my favorite things to do as part of a design project. Hopefully, you will find it useful as well.

    In fact, it would be neat to see responses in this thread with people telling where they are and what they've found as analogue climates. Additionally, if anyone out there is a programmer, it would be huge to have analogue climate software that would help easily identify climatic matches worldwide. Permaculture designers would love it!

    I'll be interested to see what kinds of places people come up with as analogues. Happy hunting!

    Dave
     
    Brenda Groth
    pollinator
    Posts: 4434
    Location: North Central Michigan
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    this is quite interesting, I have been on the same land for 38 years and have kept fairly detailed weather, temperature, rainfall and snow, and other information written for most of those years..it would be interesting to find this information out for my property and compare with other parts of the world.

    One question, is there a danger that if you bring in thigs that have not normally grown in your area that some items could become invasive and upset the natural progressions in the area?

    Like the Kudzu problems in the South?
     
    Dave Boehnlein
    Posts: 294
    Location: Orcas Island, WA
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    Brenda Groth wrote:
    One question, is there a danger that if you bring in thigs that have not normally grown in your area that some items could become invasive and upset the natural progressions in the area?

    Like the Kudzu problems in the South?


    Brenda,

    This discussion can easily turn into a can of worms as the issue of invasive species is quite loaded.

    I think toby hemenway handles the topic quite eloquently in his book Gaia's Garden. He also has a good (and slightly more fiesty) article on his website at http://patternliteracy.com/nativeplantsres.html.

    Having read those for a different take on the role of "opportunistic" species and their role in ecology, I'd like to focus on addressing the issue of conscious introductions rather than problems with kudzu in the south.

    First I would caution anyone making a new plant species introduction to try their best to understand that plant. In it's native ecosystem what niche does it fill? Under what conditions does it spread? Is it a pioneer or a late successional species? Is it shade tolerant? etc. Aside from impacts that the plant will have on the ecosystem, you could be creating a headache for yourself. While I don't necessarily think that a plant that can successfully reseed itself is inherently a bad thing (technically here on Orcas Island apples, pears, plums, and cherries are all invasive), I certainly wouldn't want to find that my entire yard was coming up with European hogweed or poison ivy.

    As a guideline, I would say it is important to keep an eye on species that may spread. If they seem to be moving and impacting your ecosystem in a way that seems inappropriate (based on your goals for that ecosystem) you can usually remove them or rethink your management of them (e.g. cutting seedheads & flower stalks, installing rhizome barriers, etc.) before they get too far.

    Ultimately, it comes down to your conscious involvement in your landscape. By using your observation skills and understanding of ecology you should be able to make decisions about the plants you introduce.

    Dave
     
    Brenda Groth
    pollinator
    Posts: 4434
    Location: North Central Michigan
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    In our 38 years at this house we have encountred a few invasive species and have sucessfully rid ourselves of the most wildly invasive ones, and allowed some to grow as they had a use..I kinda miss the Japanese Knotweed, as it was fairly good to eat when it was young and it was great for the bees, but it is all gone now (maybe??) and the Bittersweet vine, well that is still being chopped back regularly to try to keep it from taking over our entire world.
    Some things that have been written up as invasive in most places..barely will grow here..thank God..I also have an invasive aegopodium but I kinda like it so i keep it under control with mowing it off where I don't want it..so far..but it is surely spreading..having done some research I guess I can eat it though, haven't tried yet, but I won't starve then will I.

    I am pretty careful about invasive plants, most of them I accept readily, like the wild strawberry, some I pull out..like the bracken fern that creeps in from the woods...but I'm not bigoted against plants, if they have SOME use.
     
    kirk dillon
    Posts: 61
    Location: Maple City Michigan
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    I don't have a farm yet, but at 53 I know that my eventual food forest is going to eventually be taken over by someone else. If that someone else doesn't know what is invasive or how to take care of it. it could be a real problem for that person and others in the future. In New Zealand, a few possums released accidentally have turned into millions and are destroying native species that have never had to deal with predators before. We need to keep in mind that the plants you introduce will probably be there long after you are gone. If someone buys your farm and doesn't take care of it, a slightly bothersome plant could become extremely invasive and spread to other properties. I don't know what the "answer" is, I'm just advising responsible caution, for the long run....
     
    Peter Ellis
    Posts: 1432
    Location: Central New Jersey
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    kirk dillon wrote:   I don't have a farm yet, but at 53 I know that my eventual food forest is going to eventually be taken over by someone else. If that someone else doesn't know what is invasive or how to take care of it. it could be a real problem for that person and others in the future. In New Zealand, a few possums released accidentally have turned into millions and are destroying native species that have never had to deal with predators before.  We need to keep in mind that the plants you introduce will probably be there long after you are gone. If someone buys your farm and doesn't take care of it, a slightly bothersome plant could become extremely invasive and spread to other properties.  I don't know what the "answer" is, I'm just advising responsible caution, for the long run....


    Nature is not static.  Evolution is a continuing, on-going process. "Man" is just one another animal, in many ways no different than all the others. Birds transport plants thousands of miles, winds and ocean currents carry seeds. The world is in constant change. I'm not proposing reckless disregard, but I'm also suggesting that we not pretend it's reasonable to hold back the tide.
     
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