Forman discusses the ecologically “optimum” patch shape as being, “’spaceship shaped,’ with a rounded core for protection of resources, plus some curvilinear boundaries and a few fingers for species dispersal.” (32)  I think Charlottesville as a whole is a very connected city compared to most.  While the university a large patch, it is just one of many connected patches.  Sporting arenas and events, museums, adult classes or historical tours are all just some of the corridors and fingers that connect the patches of Charlottesville together.  Newman talks about using a ‘systems lens’ to focus our attention on relationships and processes. This in turn, Newman notes, “gives a better understanding of emergent properties and the complexity of living systems.”  Newman also notes the importance of context because everything is connected.   So, in response to the readings, I decided to zoom in and out of the patches that make up Charlottesville. 

The Downtown Mall:  The Downtown Mall is one of the pride and joys of Charlottesville.  Its renovation brought it to be one of the top pedestrian malls in the country.  It has brought people in from all over and provides a great escape from the college town.  The mall also hosts farmer’s markets that help to benefit the local economy, promoting sustainability as Newman discusses.  In the Forman reading, Forman discusses how removal of a patch “reduces the size of a metapopulation (i.e., an interacting population subdivided among different patches), thereby increasing the probability of local within-patch extinctions, slowing down the recolinzation process, and reducing stability of the metapopulation.”  (22).  The Downtown Mall also has an ice rink.  This rink is the only one for about 60 miles (at Liberty University).  As a member of the club ice hockey team, I am a part of the smaller system that makes up the rink.  Many people utilize the rink, from the UVA men and women’s team, local youth hockey teams, adult leagues, figure skaters, IM broomball, and even the JMU ice hockey team.  In 2010, the ice rink went bankrupt and was going to close forever.  All of these people, including myself, were devastated that we would not be able to play anymore.  However, we later found out that one of the owners of a restaurant on the Downtown Mall bought the rink.  He has since utilized the rink to the best of its abilities, turning it into a soccer field and performance venue for music and UFC events in the summer, and rink during hockey season.   The ice rink, and the downtown mall, are examples how one patch can greatly affect many other patches.

The Lawn: The Lawn is a large, central patch.  It provides a protection for the greater system of Charlottesville.  If the system of the Lawn were to fail, the structure of the university would weaken because less students, tourists, and educators would come.  The lawn also provides as a gathering space for the townspeople and college students.  For example, on Halloween the people of Charlottesville bring their young children to Trick-or-Treat on the lawn.  This provides interaction between the two societies, providing more integration.  Noble, the Lawn dog, would also not have such a safe place to wander around.  That abnormally large squirrel that sits on the lawn rocking chairs would need to find a new place to live.  This is a very important patch with fingers in every direction, but not too many.  The edges a hard that people walk along them and provide a space for people to gather.   Corridors subtly penetrate these edges through different times.

Carr’s Hill/Campbell Hall:  Forman discusses how, “increased edge abruptness tends to increase movement along an edge, whereas less edge abruptness favors movement across an edge” (29).  An example of these abrupt edges can be seen with Carr’s Hill and Campbell Hall.  Campbell Hall has many edges surrounding it in all directions, making it difficult to find.  This hard edge also makes it difficult to practice the sustainability Newman discusses.  These edges should become more flexible and less abrupt in order to attract those outside of the A-School within.  In discussion, we discussed Carr’s Hill and its connectivity.  Recently, with the construction of the new theater, pathways have become disconnected.  The construction blocks off main paths to the parking garage and Lambeth.  In turn, this provides a greater danger because A-Schoolers tend to stay late at night and would have to walk an even longer route in the dark.  This disconnection also forces people to only walk on one side of the building, rather than explore alternate routes.

disconnection and abrupt edges

These readings helped me to understand how individual systems can work better when they work with the systems around it.  Charlottesville has many patches that rely on one another that if one becomes disconnected, the system weakens.


Newman,Cities as Ecosystems, Ch.5;

Forman, Landscape Ecology Principle