Friday, May 6, 2011

Edible Forest Gardens: Vol 1. Chapter 4 -- Social Structure

Continuing my reading through Edible Forest Gardens (EFG) Volume 1, chapter 4 was on Social Structure: Niches, Relationships, Communities. Any given species has over time adapted to find some mix of strategies for food gathering, self preservation, and reproduction that result in it serving particular functions and roles in its ecosystem. Other species in turn have the opportunity to respond to these choices by competing, cooperating, or co-opting. However these relationships are not simple across-the-board affairs: always and in all ways cooperating or in always and in all ways competing. Rather in some aspects or phases of life they may stand in one relationship and in others another.
  • Adaptation -- a particular evolutionary response to the environment
  • Strategy -- a collection of coherent adaptations that work well together, but will likely preclude other "paths not taken"
  • Function -- an effect the organism has on the environment
  • Role -- a "job" the organism does providing certain environmental services
  • Niche -- the combination of functions, roles, and requirements
  • Relationship -- who eats whom, treatment of limited resources, trade
  • Social Structures -- the web of relationships
  • Food web -- cycle nutrients throughout the community
From a design point of view, we can pay attention to mutualism and neutralism to form guilds based on one or both of
  • Resource-sharing guilds -- with members that reduce competition by sharing resources. Such as plants with different depths of roots (spacial redundancy) or that demand resources at different times of year (temporal redundancy).
  • Mutual-support guilds -- members that actively benefit each other
One important design consideration is predator support. Places for predators to shelter, eat, and drink so that you can maintain a healthy population to suppress pests. Some specific families of plants that are good for predators are Apiaceae (carrot/dill/parsley family), Asteraceae (aster/daisy/sunflower family), and Lamiaceae (mint family), which all happen to be Asterids.

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