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Protecting biodiversity for 80,000 acres of urban forest

Changchun Middle Mountain Framework Plan

City of Changchun/Changchun Jingyue Hi-tech District Planning Bureau
Changchun, China
163,090 acres (66,000 hectares)
Landscape Architecture
Planning and Urban Design
Additional Services
Completed 2021
Boston Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA), Honor Award in Analysis and Planning category

Situated at the confluence of the montane mixed deciduous forests of the Changbai Mountains and the region’s broad, flat, and fertile agricultural lands, Changchun is known as the green jewel of China’s Northeast Plain. With over 40% of the urban area protected as parks and nature reserves, this public open space network forms the foundation of Changchun’s urban fabric.

The 255 square mile study area includes three reservoirs, agricultural fields, multiple decommissioned mining sites, and significant upland forests.  Conserving and restoring over 80,000 acres of increasingly threatened urban forest establishes a solid foundation for this diverse habitat to expand and thrive while also accommodating strategic future development.

A Comprehensive Plan

Once a mosaic of grasslands and wetlands, China’s Northeast Plain consists of deep, nutrient-rich alluvial soils which have helped the area to become one of the country’s largest wheat producers. Through systematic GIS and ecological analysis, the project’s overarching goals used landscape restoration as a foundation to connect fragmented land use zones caused by previous urban development and mining activities. This endeavor allows for strategic community growth in carefully selected areas while protecting sensitive core habitats that make the area unique.

Improving Ecological Connections

The Framework Plan preserves significant and contiguous patches of existing tree canopy as priority areas for habitat conservation, species movement, and enhanced ecosystem services. This strategy includes prioritizing hillsides prone to erosion and areas of fragmented tree canopy as zones for reforestation for conservation, recreation, and agroforestry industries. These socio-ecologic restoration areas create an enhanced buffer for priority habitat where conservation is emphasized, most notably in areas of dense canopy or high elevation. A focus on ideas that support balanced socio-ecological development through promoting forestry products, agriculture, and tourism ensures that the landscape is regenerative, productive, and serves as a community asset.

Enhancing Accessibility for All

The spine of the overall framework is built upon existing infrastructure, with new modes of transit that resonate with Changchun’s existing tram network and offers multiple opportunities to transfer from a variety of other public transit systems. This aggressive mobility strategy enhances accessibility and further reduces the carbon footprint in response to the city’s ambitious sustainability goals. The 30 mile-long transit experience offers an immersive opportunity to connect to the diverse destinations of the Middle Mountain area.

Balancing Socio-Economic Impacts

The Framework Plan provides principles that will guide future development in tandem with additional protections to critical conservation areas. A series of village revitalization strategies boost the local tourism economy while providing job opportunities. The bike network extends the city’s greenway system and creates a loop around two reservoirs and links to multiple historical heritage sites. Rehabilitated quarries offer new recreational experiences, and provide a crucial guide for the restoration of the region’s natural beauty.

An Ecologically-Informed Phasing Strategy

Ecological conservation and urban development were considered in tandem and intentionally dovetail from planning through implementation. Existing villages and previously developed sites are transformed as pilot projects while critical ecosystem restoration is underway. As the forest matures and the habitat diversifies, more eco-tourism related developments and infrastructures are introduced at gateway locations. Eventually, the whole area is envisioned as a self-sustaining network where existing natural habitats, restored forests and wetlands, tourism-related developments, and local agriculture are all thoughtfully integrated.

For more information contact Michael Grove.

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