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Farm meets saltmarsh in Abbots Hall Farm

Now that I am much more confident in explaining what saltmarsh formation and managed realignment is I can start seriously start to postulate that Tidal Restrain is a potential ecoMachine. I say potential because only when you test the prototypes, like totora, can you start raising the project to the status of ecoMachine.

The fact that it deals with a specific process (novelty #1: my process is saltmarsh formation) and with a material system that engages this process (novelty #2: spartina anglica and seagrasses root systems: branching logics) paves the way for a full-fledged ecoMachine. With these two foundation concepts, the clearly defined aim is to create the saltmarsh. How a saltmarsh is formed: here a brief summary.

Early SaltMarsh:

Encourage sedimentation at the intertidal zone (where the saltmarsh sediment has to build up), chanelling salty water and restricting it in some areas (this way you control the eventual colonisation of reed species types, both halophylic and halophobic (salt loving, salt hating), that would in turn collect more sediment) and slowing down tide flow in order to maintain a constant water flow that wont disrupt the build up of sediment at the intertidal range.

Maturing saltmarsh:

The eventual build up of the sediment in the intertidal range leads to the mudflat bed where the saltmarsh grows. The channel creeks then carve out as they make their way into less saline water, creating the dendritic patterns. Microtidal conditions, where tide is too slow, leads to even more proliferation of dendritic systems as water flow is distributed within the network of creeks and absorbed. The saltmarsh, now mature and distinct at even high tide, rising above sea level, forms a microcliff. These microcliffs are saltmarshes that are consolidated and receed inland. At lower levels of the intertidal range, more sediment builds up for further saltmarsh colonisation.

The material system would then have to:

– catch sediment

– control the tide flow to keep it at constant speeds for sediment build up.

– direct the colonisation of reed species according to salinity in water and depth of water as certain types are less aquatic than others, when higher tides hit the forming marsh.

This, at the basic level of fulfilling the role of marsh formation.

At the architectural level, something is missing.

This is where the Abbots Hall Farm case study gains crucial importance (novelty #3: Miss Karen Thomas from the Environment Agency is willing to offer a site visit around mid February to the Farm to have a look at the Managed Realignment scheme there.). The managed realigment scheme bringing forth again a saltmarsh ecosystem is next to a farm. A series of issues arise whith this. Will the salinity-non salinity of the flow of water will percolate in the crops and irrigation system of the farm? Could the marsh, or my ecoMachine, or both, act as filter of salt for the injection of tide water into the farm irrigiation system? Will the establishment of a saltmarsh affect the presence of pests and bugs or perhaps birds that feed on these? Can the nutrients of the collection of sediment from sea debris, reed decay, rhizome nitrogen fixators located in seagrass, be used as farmland fertiliser or as soil to feed into the Farm?

Basically, are the advantages of adding on a saltmarsh next to a farm only those of tidal surge control or are there some benefits to it that would engage both landscape conditions? Is my ecoMachine then the negotiator? At first the instigator, the triggerer of the saltmarsh to colonise itself, but, then, could my ecoMachine perform in ways that the Farm and the Saltmarsh coexist symbiotically? What other benefits can there arise from addin-on a saltmarsh to other typologies? These questions are the ones that I will discuss with Miss Thomas. Certainly, when Tidal Restrain performs at those levels of not only creating a condition by engaging the environment, but actually responding to itself and other neighbouring environments and conditions then the cybernetic dialogue begins.

The beauty of this should be kept however within the realm of the unpredictability of performance of our systems and on the emergent behaviours that will occur. From my netlogo simulations this is certainly the case, and from a position where I am engaging landscape and environmental processes, then I cant be naive to portend that I can control and go “you do this, you do that”, but more as general catalyst for a condition that has ecoMachinic potential to begin.

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