Uprooting Green Space Can Have Decades of Impact

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Robison Wells
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We’ve all seen a construction project tear up existing grass, trees, shrubs and earth—temporarily, to be replanted and “restored” later. But what impact does the temporary disruption really have on the landscape, fauna, and human usage?

A recent construction work at Syracuse University looked to determine this impact. The once-green outdoor area near Lawrinson Hall on the campus was uprooted to become the staging area for a large expansion and retrofitting project. The foliage was torn up and planned to be restored in 2022 when the project is completed.

Syracuse Media Manager has stated that “The site will be restored to its former state upon completion, and the impact of construction on the surrounding communities should be minimal.”

But forestry and environmental science professors at the university have different opinions.

“On an ecosystem level, we can lose a great deal,” said Dr. Steve Voelker. “From pollinators to decomposers, there is no way that such a loss of land can be ‘minimal.’”

Plant growth, he says, in that part of the world goes through five year cycles, so to disrupt the ecosystem for four years, sets the area back an effective twenty years. In other words, it will take twenty years for the disrupted area to return to same level of growth, flora and fauna, that it had previously.

But not only are these changes bad for the green spaces, but they’re bad for humans, too.

“It’s hard to argue with the value of green spaces,” Voelker said. “The largest concern that I have about using areas that are populated, with respect to ecosystem interactions, is the loss of connectivity. In relation to human interactions, green areas create a means for us to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.”

These are important things to keep in mind as developers look at what they’re willing to sacrifice in the name of progress. Some disruption can’t be avoided, but the costs should be always considered.

To learn more about Syracuse’s construction, read the The Daily Orange.

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