Corals
Zheng

Project: Shift from Turf Grass to Native Plants - Guideline Development

Corals is a second-year Master of Environmental Studies in Planning Student at York University, with a concentration in Urban and Regional Development. Her research interests focus on land-use in Toronto, and her master’s project seeks to examine neighbourhood change and the studentification of the West Chinatown neighbourhood. Corals is passionate about sustainable urban development and resilient infrastructure in response to the challenges of climate change.

PROJECT

Pollinator-Friendly Green Spaces aims to explore methods of retrofitting existing green spaces to support biodiversity, in addition to mitigating the effects of flash flooding in Toronto. The goal of the project is to create a guidance document of ways in which native species can be incorporated into new and existing residential developments and specific design strategies that can minimize landscape maintenance and water usage. Native plant species, in contrast to existing grassy lawns, have a deeper root network, and thus can better reduce soil erosion, aid in climate regulation through water absorption, and flood mitigation. Meadow-like spaces offer a rich variety of food and shelter for native species of bugs, birds, and insects, and when scaled up to the neighbourhood scale, has the potential to enhance and conserve Toronto’s biodiversity.

I was a beekeeper during my undergraduate years. While keeping honeybees is arguably worse for native pollinator species, the experience made me hyperaware of how pollinators interact with urban green spaces in general and the city’s potential for conservation. The landscapes of Toronto’s neighbourhoods are mostly dominated by a non-indigenous monoculture as ground cover and meticulously maintained through watering, mowing, fertilizers, and herbicides. Yet, these neighbourhoods are connected to Toronto’s natural heritage system, and therefore, play an important role as a form of green infrastructure. The tension between these two facades of green spaces is the inspiration behind the project.

MOTIVATION FOR AND COMMITMENT TO CREATING A BETTER AND MORE SUSTAINABLE PLANET

I am committed to sustainability and good urban design because it is the right thing to do. The increasing challenges of the Anthropocene are created in the global north through decades of extraction and exploitation. However, the effects disproportionately affect the most vulnerable peoples, ecosystems, and species, everywhere but also right here in Toronto. Cities are important spaces in which the effects of climate change, as well as the solutions, localize in a tangible and feasible way. As such, sustainability is not just about the future, but also reconciliation and atonement.

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