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I most resonate with the knowledge base which defines natural habitat loss as a collection of concepts. The three which envelope all causes (without missing any) are:
  1. Habitat Destruction
  2. Habitat Fragmentation
  3. Habitat Degradation
Now, I can already come to terms about what these entail – to a certain degree. Especially if I’m pulling from the evidence I witness. Whether, by that, I mean my region, my county, the nearest forest or even my own acreage. I’ve seen the trouble caused when I need to divert the seasonal creek to run anywhere but over my driveway.. The water travels where it wants to go. Who am I to try telling it otherwise? And this is only one example. Human impact links all definitions which tie those three concepts together.

From my Perspective

And I’m here, with this post and this entire website actually, to discover and then showcase where we can make cuts. This is especially the case as it relates to our homes. Because what’s more poetic than tying their homes (natural habitat) to ours? All for the better good of creating connection and balance between our worlds. Whether we acknowledge that they’re separate or see the truth that the two worlds are seamless.
I come from the industry of interior architecture – that’s my education. And I’ve been lucky enough to gain experience in exterior elements too. That being architectural details and landscape. So, yep, I’m a home designer.
What I specify for a home is decided. But then, somewhere else, thousands of miles away, the land is taking the beating for it. The land, the home, the natural habitat of other living beings is sacrificed. Sure, it celebrates the natural daylight coming in.. which may very well include the view of a wildlife garden in the future. And which will bring everyone’s heart at ease for any wrong doing during the design/build. But, my goodness, are we missing the point.
And I can’t sit around for someone else to make sense of that any longer.
I’d like to walk us through the story of creating a home, from the perspective of a much wider lens.

Habitat Destruction

First, it’s somehow decided to clear-cut the site. I’ve so often seen the entire plot of land cleared. This occurs right after the owner has purchased the land or it’s done shortly before breaking ground. Of my 10+ years in the design/build industry, I’ve never been part of a mission to also protect the land. Why must we cause habitat destruction in such a large perimeter around the footprint of a new house? Why must everything go?
I’ve gotten to the point where, after years and years of asking, I’m tired of the answers. Because they’re not good enough. They are petty, selfish and paint the picture that we are all spoiled. Especially with our conveniences and cost-saving antics. Its not worth trying to compromise on every project anymore. We should be setting a required standard, which is non-negotiable, about what we are willing to destroy and what must be protected at all costs – even ‘worked-around’ no matter if it goes against a desire (in a perfect world..).

Insight & Further Resources 

This has me, again, appreciating what the City of Ottawa created – way back in 2014. They created Protocal for Wildlife Protection During Construction. This mindful standard is what the larger groups ought to do. States, counties, etc, – though until then – its up to the smaller groups. That means independent companies, individual clients and builders pushing for the same actions. (This reminds me of teachings I learned in the course Sustainable Business Strategy, taught by Harvard.) This city has set the precedent to uphold compassion above profits. And its left me both inspired and empowered to share and push for the same in my own work. Also, alongside and in conversations with other decision makers. It’s helpful to have such a document as this, to point to and say, ‘here – like this!’
So, folks too typically clear-cut for a new house. We cut down trees which are hundreds of years old – those trees which give us clean air and which houses wildlife. We disturb the rich soil with our machinery. We rip up the native plants which feed and protect the songbirds. We ruin an entire self-sustaining micro-ecosystem because we decided we wanted it for our own single-minded use. And even after the initial damage happens, often forever destroyed, we maintain damage. We mow lawns and bring in exotic flowers. We create an abundance of noise which causes wildlife to only speak the necessary words to their young. That is all habitat loss through destruction.

Habitat Fragmentation

Here’s a newer one for me to realize. Yet, I know I’ve seen it time and time again – only never had a name for it until I began researching. Yes, this is often understood as it comes to all roads. Those which actually fragment habitats from one another. We then make them even smaller by our smaller roads. And industries rarely talk to one another, either. It causes even more fragmentation as we put in place new structures. Or by logging nearby to sell or to ensure the land sells at a higher cost. We continue to do this over and over, and it only expedites once we take the first step. We are a domino effect when it comes to fragmentation.
And, again, it happens by our own hand too. Me, anyone reading this, we are all a part of it. We aren’t the one sitting in the machinery, but we are making that same effect indirectly – from afar.
On our own plots, we fence our yards or gardens. We cut down native plants. We put in a pool. We divert wetlands, we make it difficult for birds to mate, find shelter, feed their young.

Connecting the Dots

Even the very best of us, through the eyes of Mother Earth, do our best in and around our home. Yet, we stop when it comes to the larger community. We don’t offer enough insight to our neighbors. Or push for the connection of habitat over many plots and the community at large. Where is the push for every town to conserve large plots? Where is the abundance of land trusts with an agenda on sustainability? Or how about wildlife gardens right in the center of town and on the outskirts?
I’m currently reading Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas M. Tallamy. The author brings to light the importance to fight this fragmentation. Doing too little of spaces (in quantity) is a big problem. And so is having those quantity of spaces but they not being at large enough scale. So, we need to address both issues at once. Migratory species need safe places to rest and strengthen.

Habitat Degradation

’Disruption of ecosystem processes,’ as the NWF defines it (to which I am on the Membership Advisory Council :)), resonates with me. Over time, natural habitat can break down into proper habitat loss. It is the opposite of destruction, which is more so quick – like ripping off a bandaid. The degradation of habitat is what happens over and over after time.
This aspect of natural habitat loss is becoming quite critical to address. Especially for my industry. On the surface, many of us are addressing destruction. Thats the quick stuff we see. Yet, degradation takes roadmapping and forethought to prevent.
Pollution is a big key here. When we mine the earth for materials, or when they take a trek on boat, plane and/or truck to get to site, we are degrading habitats. The air, soil and everything between.


I’ll add here, too, that I see degradation as what occurs during the entire construction process. (a future post will cover this). The process of the land through the seasons is disrupted. And, thus, so are the behaviors of the wildlife who require it’s stability and expected traits.
When we break ground during the spring, as we often do, we are disrupting nests. When we do so during the fall, we are disrupting the shelter and food found within fallen leaves. And the entirety of the meadow or forest floor, actually. Those are very very fragile and important aspects of the natural habitat.
To prevent habitat degradation, we ought to work around wildlife’s survival needs. We ought to be mindful of seasons, the rough years.. We ought to closely watch the effects of human impact on a plot of land. Or among the inclusion of its neighboring community of land over the years.
Imagine how natural surroundings once looked like and served as before an entire development of houses stepped in. Including the many families and cars to boot. The affect of native species required of animals to survive are forced to move to neighboring habitats, if any. This causing overpopulation there or lost lives because they stayed put. Whether we are a part of the issue or we’re maintaining it, we have a responsibility to right the wrongs. These long-term effects and causes of natural habitat loss are hurting everyone involved.

A Designer’s Mission

I’d be most happy if I could attack each of these concepts which amount to natural habitat loss on a whole. They are all connected, and I can work to connect the dots. Plus, they are niched – a more manageable problem to address. My efforts would be most successful where I can attach one solution to a number of problems. So, I commit to working that out and prioritizing those ideals as I move forward.


With a BFA in Interior Architecture with 10+ years of experience, working with large architecture firms and as Head of Design within design/build companies, Ashley now narrows her focus towards alternative dwellings, adaptive reuse, natural buildings and a study of materials with a hyper-sustainable lifestyle. This is all to ensure homes are in balance with our natural surroundings and to further the fight against habitat loss for wildlife, because one home no longer needs to be sacrificed for another. She asks us all to, ‘Adopt the Alternative.’

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