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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Environmental Restoration Using Gabions

Environmental Restoration Using Gabions

Commercial gabion baskets (credit: Wally Hardware)

Leonardo da Vinci is famous for his curiosity studying diverse and unrelated subjects: his enigmatic portraits; how the wings of birds functioned; human anatomy; drawings of fanciful and elaborate contraptions from flying machines to military armaments; to mountain geology, and the movement of water. His notebooks, of which perhaps only 25% are known to have survived, continue being studied by contemporary investigators to garner insights. An argument could be made that da Vinci was the Renaissance RenaissanceRenaissance godfather to biomimicry, geomorphology, and ecological restoration even though none of these disciplines existed the 15th Century. His illustrations, constructions, and observations flow into each of these contemporary scientific, engineering, and design/build enterprises.

A good example is Leonardo's utilization of the gabion or gabbione for a 'basket of stones'. As the Italian translation indicates, a gabion is constructed from a sturdy mesh into a form that stabilizes another structure when filled with stones. Gabions can be used for a building's foundation, to control a steep embankment, or as a way to reduced erosion in environmental situations to capture and contain water. They direct, deflect, and reduce the force of floods that helps to reduce their impact. These traditional construction methods and materials are finding contemporary new applications.

In most arid regions, deforestation and over-grazing has created vast denuded landscapes with reduced water supplies. With the ability of gabions to direct, deflect, and reduce the force of flood waters, the results are containment ponds or sections of once dry creeks or rivers where water is maintained. Several innovative organizations, Native American tribes, and commercial ranching operations in the Southwestern US and elsewhere have shown dramatic recovery of vegetation and groundwater supplies after gabions have been installed. Their designed and managed projects utilized this classical civil engineering technology to 'kick-start' an ecosystem's recovery that provided additional benefits as well.

 

 

If Leonardo were alive, he would likely be proud seeing the results of combining design creativity with an understanding the recovery power of nature. WHB

 

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