Lawn (Re)Disturbance Laboratory:
Unearthing to Rewild, Remember, Look Forward
Asking the question “What seeds are hidden in our soil?”, this art-ecology project is taking place across institutional and residential lawns in Troy during the 2018 growing season.
In ecology, the term “pioneer species” refers to plants that respond to disturbance, sprouting rapidly in bare, exposed or otherwise de-vegetated earth to jumpstart the process of ecosystem recovery. Often denigrated as “weedy”, many of these plants have long-lived seeds that stay dormant in the soil until disturbance occurs. Earthquakes, landslides, or even human construction projects can churn up soil, causing seeds dormant for years or even decades to sprout.
These plants then grow rapidly, stabilizing the soil and generating habitat until slower growing species arrive. What species does the city of Troy have waiting in the wings? Maybe a wildflower that was common in 1600 but we never see anymore? Maybe a medicinal herb that was brought by an immigrant from Europe or Asia two hundred years ago? Maybe a dandelion seed that was buried thirty years ago when the foundation for a new apartment building was excavated? Let’s find out!
Through in-situ, gallery and lab-based seed germination tests across a variety of human-disturbed landscapes (from long term turf grass monocultures to abandoned industrial sites that are regularly mowed) this public-facing experiment is focused on the power of past seed burial for future rewilding in the face of a rapidly changing climate.
Publicly visible test plots will be accompanied by educational information about wild urban plants and city ecology, and results will be shared with the community through group fieldwork days, public presentations and publications, and art workshops and exhibitions. This site will be updated with more information as the project develops.
Below: 1 x 1 meter test plots will be established in the landscape and observed over the growing season.
Below: A sculptural representation of the project will be shown in gallery settings
Below: Soil germination tests will be carried out in a controlled setting under grow lights and results tracked over the course of the study (sample image from previous related project)
Relevant Related Studies and Articles:
Albrecht, Harald, Elisabeth Eder, Thomas Langbehn, and Clara Tschiersch. “The Soil Seed Bank and Its Relationship to the Established Vegetation in Urban Wastelands.” Landscape and Urban Planning 100, no. 1 (March 30, 2011): 87–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2010.11.011
Ma, Hongyuan, Haoyu Yang, Zhengwei Liang, and Mark K. J. Ooi. “Effects of 10-Year Management Regimes on the Soil Seed Bank in Saline-Alkaline Grassland.” PLOS ONE 10, no. 4 (April 22, 2015): e0122319. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0122319.
Thompson, Ken, Stephen Colsell, Jennifer Carpenter, Richard M. Smith, Philip H. Warren, and Kevin J. Gaston. “Urban Domestic Gardens (VII): A Preliminary Survey of Soil Seed Banks.” Seed Science Research 15, no. 2 (June 2005): 133–41. https://doi.org/10.1079/SSR2005201.