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Practicum Project | 2020

Creating a living seed bank for urban restoration in Los Angeles

Home to more than ten million people, the Los Angeles metropolitan area accommodates one of the largest urban populations in the world. The vast majority of its landscape has been converted to freeways, skyscrapers, strip malls, and other development, resulting in the loss of native vegetation and wildlife which provide valuable ecosystem services that maintain the landscape Angelenos inhabit. This extensive urbanization has also led creation of an urban heat island, a phenomenon where cities experience warmer climate conditions than surrounding rural areas due to factors such as an increase in dark, paved surfaces and a lack of vegetation. Urban heat islands can result in serious health consequences, including respiratory difficulties, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even heat-related mortality. Urbanization has also made green space increasingly inaccessible to populations occupying dense urban areas, creating socioeconomic inequity across communities while severely obstructing wildlife and the roles they play within this ecosystem.

Our client Seed LA envisions a greener future for Los Angeles that addresses these pressing issues. In collaboration with entities such as the National Park Service, Theodore Payne Foundation, and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, we hope to construct a seed bank of locally-sourced, native seeds that can be used to vegetate urban green spaces, revegetate areas of ecological significance like the Los Angeles River, and ultimately create a more vibrant and resilient Los Angeles landscape.

Our project will focus on identifying existing native plant populations in Los Angeles and potential locations to reintroduce native biodiversity through urban green space. In particular, we will:

  • Use GIS and statistical analysis to predict climate induced impacts
  • Determine suitable locations to re-establish native plant populations in the city
  • Provide resilient habitat that can withstand hot, dry climate conditions and accommodate wildlife
  • Provide Los Angeles with a stock of biologically diverse native vegetation that will provide cleaner air quality and stabilize watersheds
  • Assemble a physical seed bank that provides Los Angeles with a stock of native vegetation for future generations
  • Create beautiful, accessible green space for Angelenos and Southern California wildlife
  • Provide research that that can be used in revitalizing the urban landscape

Student Team: Hannah Crispi, Jaclyn Ha, Emma Lauterbach, Madeleine McKee, Amir Patel, Michelle Pham, and Keely Watland

Advisor: Dr. Andrew Kleinhesselink

Client: SEED LA