Why it’s important and what you should do?
Natural environments are biologically rich and diverse with millions of different living things, from microscopic soil bacteria to large predators, all working together to create strongly woven, resilient and dynamic systems that make human existence possible. These natural systems are also resistant to disaster because the sheer volume of life they support and their dynamic nature make them able to bounce back from difficult conditions whether it be drought or changing climactic conditions. However, biodiversity around the world is being eroded. As more land is developed, put into agricultural use, mined and used as garbage dumps, as our oceans are over-fished and contaminated, as human populations increase, gobbling up more land and resources, these biodiverse systems are becoming increasingly threatened. Today, a third of all amphibians, a fifth of all mammals and an eighth of all birds are threatened with exinction.
This may seem like an overwhelming problem but there many things you can do in your daily life and in your own backyard to restore, enhance and protect biodiversity. Here’s some suggestions:
1. Plant Native Trees, Shrubs and Flowers Native plants have evolved over thousands of years with our native wildlife and they support each other. For example, our native white oak tree feeds almost 500 species from the smallest caterpillars (that feed our songbirds) to squirrels and black bear. By contrast, the widely planted, non-native, invasive Norwary Maple feeds two species. Norway Maples also produce a large number of seeds and can out-compete our native trees, taking over our woodlands and threatening the biodiversity of our forests. Forsythia is another example of a non-native species that doesn’t feed a single native creature. In comparison, our native serviceberry, a large shrub/small tree produces flowers in the spring attracting pollinators and berries in the fall that feed dozens of species of native birds. When landscaping, choose native trees, shrubs and flowers that support our native wildlife (see our resource list).
2. Don’t Plant Non-Native Invasives Many plants brought to North America from Europe, Asia and other parts of the globe are now causing major problems in our area. For example, buckthorn a tough shrub introduced from Europe to make fences around animal pens is now spreading around North America and through Oakville’s woodlands. Native species of trees that would provide much greater environmental benefit in terms of pollution reduction, storm water abatement, shade and wildlife food are being displaced. Our Carolinian plants and understory flowers, such as trilliums and baneberry are also threatened by non-native invasive plants including, garlic mustard, honeysuckle, periwinkle and English Ivy. Despite increasing awareness of the harm caused by non-native invasives, many continue to be sold in garden centres. For information on what not to buy and suitable substitutes you can check the Ontario Invasive Plant Council’s Grow Me Instead publications, or the resources of the North American Native Plant Society.
You can also search for trees native to southwestern Ontario in the Tree Atlas.
3. Learn The Best Way To Plant Trees and Shrubs Increase the chance of survival for your trees and shrubs by learning how to plant them properly and care for them, especially during the first critical years. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) provides excellent tree planting and care resources.
4. Welcome Wildlife Into Your Garden There are many resources out there to help you ‘Bring Nature Home’ in your own yard and community garden. Contact us and we can help you enhance your patch of nature by planting a variety of natives plants for birds, pollinators, and other wildlife! In 2015, we are holding various workshops on learning how to build solitary bee boxes and making native seed ‘bombs’. Stay tuned for another native plant sale in 2016, including our pollinator garden kits to help create a pollinator pop-up garden almost anywhere!
5. Commit To Planting As Many Native Trees And Shrubs As Possible Over Your Lifetime
Trees are a gift we give to future generations. If we don’t plant them, what kind of world will our children inherit? Plant them on your property. Join community tree plantings. Encourage your children’s school, your church, temple, mosque, the company you work for, and the stores you shop at to plant their grounds. Give to organizations that plant trees.