Creating Biodiversity in our Yards


Spring has arrived, and with it come all the outdoor projects in our yards. We want to fix up the lawn, make sure our landscaping is attractive, and generally have a welcoming property. For many years, creating these beautiful yards has come at the expense of our local biodiversity. We often use chemicals to treat anything we consider undesirable like weeds or insects. However, these “weeds” and insects are vital to maintaining healthy biodiversity in our yards, and the chemicals will kill many more plants and insects than we intend to. This creates a trickle-down effect impacting the entirety of our backyard ecosystem.

The impact of habitat and species loss due to urbanization, increased chemical use, and the use of non-native and invasive plants is extreme. According to Cornell University, the North American bird population has dropped by approximately 30% since 1970. And birds are critical to keeping insect populations in balance. Doug Tallamy from the University of Delaware states that 96% of terrestrial birds rear their young on insects. This makes insects a vital part of many food chains and food webs.

Another interesting fact about insects: about 90% of leaf-eating insects are what I call “mono” eaters, which means they primarily eat only one plant. The most well-known local example of this is the monarch butterfly. They lay their eggs on milkweed plants which then become caterpillars. The caterpillars only eat the leaves of the milkweed, and they form their chrysalis there as well. Having native plants available to our insects is very important!

One of the insects most hard-hit by urbanization and chemical use is the bee. Since 2007, some bee populations have dropped by more than 80%. This is devastating as the bee is the most important insect on earth according to the Earthwatch Institute, a conservation nonprofit. In fact, the honeybee is responsible for approximately 80% of pollination in the United States. This allows for food crops to propagate, thus feeding us and the animals we also eat. A simple truth is that most insects are beneficial—bees, ladybugs, mantises, dragonflies, lacewings. Some eat other insects, others pollinate, and all are good things for us. They really are a vital part of our ecosystem.

These are questions I get all the time—What can I do? Can I even make an impact? The simple answer is YES! There are so many things we can all do to help create a sustainable, biodiverse ecosystem in our own backyards. I like to start with the plants, trees, and shrubs. There are many native varietals that will support local ecosystems. Why natives though? These native plants are the very base of our ecosystem. They are adapted to our region making them stronger and heartier. Because they are native, they also require less maintenance and water to thrive. And they support the other aspects of life in the ecosystem. If you are considering redoing some of the landscape areas in your yard, go to a local plant nursery to get the best information on trees, plants, and shrubs that will both look beautiful and support the environment. When you are thinking about flowers for your containers or garden beds, include good pollinator flowers in the mix. Again, there are so many that are extraordinary! And the best part is once it’s done there is little you will need to do! It’s a win for you and a win for the environment!

It’s all about everyone finding a few things they feel comfortable doing. That is how we make a difference!

Sustainably Yours,
Kim Moore

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