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Exploring ecostructure : developing an ecostructural framework as an approach to a mass wasting hazard assessment Maynard, Russell Paul

Abstract

A mass wasting event (a landslide) on the Pitzsimmons Creek near the Resort Municipality of Whistler, B.C. threatens property and public safety through its potential to release again. The 'Fitz Slump',as it is locally known, is a landslide that occurred during unseasonably heavy rains in late August 1991. The Slump is located in a mountainous watershed characterized by steep forested slopes and thick glacial moraines. Several engineering reports have been completed on the Slump. These investigations included sampling, measurement, and extrapolation of discrete sample results to estimate the geotechnical details of the regolith, and importing these measurements into computational models to estimate the probable risks of a recurrence. This engineering approach is utilized as an informative and quantitative assessment to the multivariate dynamics of gravity-induced slope failure. An alternative, the ecostructural approach, also considers these complex dynamics but in contrast explicitly considers ecological influences on slope stability These influences are described by three major structural processes that provide an example of a stabilizing eco-infrastructure, via development of: (1) In-stream Structures, (2) Forest Root Systems, and (3) Preferential Flow Path Systems. These examples illustrate the coevolution of network-forming processes that synergistically produce a stabilizing ecological infrastructure herein termed 'ecostructure'. Ecostructures are the physical components of an ecosystem that form 'conservational' structures. These structures underpin the ecosystem services that develop as a emergent result. Ecostructure is the analog to institutional infrastructure, with certain caveats. The ecostructural approach utilizes a hierarchical template to organize the complexity of a large scale analysis, and attempts to identify explicit examples of ecosystem dynamics that can be characterized as having networked architectures. In this work, and in ecostructure as a concept, the salient points that create a generalizable model are: ∼ that complexity can be managed using hierarchy theory as a frame work for organizing the analysis ∼ that important properties are recognizable only at functional levels of organization and at similarly functional scales of organization ∼ that self-organizing systems tend to exhibit net worked architecture and that this architecture would seem to have general properties that can be useful in terms of managing for ecosystem services Keywords: Ecostructure, Watershed Dynamics, Preferential Flows, Networks, Headwater Hydrology, Headwater Geomorphology, Scale, Hirerarchy Theory, Self-organization, Near-decomposability, Sustainability.

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