Life, in large part, is dependent on the health and diversity of the plants that live in a place.
Plant diversity is important. The more diversity of plants we have, the healthier the ecosystem. Diversity of plants supports the diversity of other life forms, which helps to keep the system in balance. Diversity is vital for ecosystem health and stability.
WHAT ARE NATIVE PLANTS?
Native plants are important for ecosystem health because they have adapted to be able to live within an ecosystem and fulfill a niche. Each plant has a purpose within a place, and greater plant diversity allows more animals, including people, to live happy, healthy lives in that place.
Native plants are ones “that existed in an area prior to European settlement. These plants are well adapted to climate, precipitation, soils, insects, and other local conditions and are consequently easier to grow than non-natives.” (Nowak, 2012)
Introduced and/or exotic plants can work against the health of the ecosystem by taking over a landscape or not supplying the needed nutrients to the animals that eat the plants that have been displaced. For this reason, it is vitally important that we work to plant a greater number of diverse native plants within our yards.
Most homeowners have some plant knowledge but do not know what plants are native. Interestingly, most homeowners think having a wide variety of native plants is important. Most homeowners make judgments on landscape health based on aesthetics, not if it is biologically diverse or environmentally friendly.
”EACH HOMEOWNER MUST UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF DESIGNING AND MAINTAINING THEIR YARD FOR BEAUTY AND BIODIVERSITY.
We cannot afford to sit back and say, “someone else can do that.” Each homeowner must understand the importance of designing and maintaining their yard for beauty and ecological health. Beauty and ecological health are found in biodiversity.
OUR CURRENT REALITY
“The space devoted to turfgrass in the United States is growing at the rate of almost six hundred square miles a year. One of the main challenges facing bees, and all wildlife, is the loss of habitat. People change the landscape in many ways when converting land to different uses and most of those changes are detrimental to biodiversity.
One excellent example of this is agriculture. Farmers often plant large and uniform stands of crops to increase their management efficiency and then attempt to exclude crop competitors such as weeds and insects. This system, while efficient at producing food, has resulted in increasingly large areas of low-quality habitat for wildlife.
One method proposed for offsetting this loss of biodiversity is called reconciliation ecology. Reconciliation ecology is a conservation philosophy that seeks to improve the ability of human landscapes to support biodiversity, while still allowing for human use. This is an important concept, as it acknowledges the human role in conserving biodiversity, and seeks to find new management solutions that do not put human use and biodiversity needs in conflict.
Lawns are not entirely different from farms in that they are managed as large single or similar species plantings with chemical inputs sometimes used to reduce non-grass plants usually viewed as competitors. But lawns are unlike much of agriculture in that they are perennial in nature and not managed as a commodity.
This subjective and changing use of lawns gives them the potential for modification through reconciliation ecology. If we can preserve the human use of lawns while improving their ability to support biodiversity by incorporating flowering plants, we can create a win-win situation or both people and nature” (Spivak).
WHY NATIVE PLANTS ARE IMPORTANT
“With 54% of the U.S. now in cities or suburbs and 41% in agriculture, that leaves only 5% of designated natural areas left for biodiversity. Biodiversity will have to survive in urban, suburban, and agricultural areas if it is going to survive at all.
”BIODIVERSITY WILL HAVE TO SURVIVE IN URBAN, SUBURBAN, AND AGRICULTURAL AREAS IF IT IS GOING TO SURVIVE AT ALL.
The American urban/suburban matrix, in which it’s estimated that over 80% of plants are alien species imported from Europe and Asia, does not provide them in the numbers that birds need. Neither breeding birds nor migrants, which “stop over” in our neighborhoods by the millions to rest and replenish, can find enough to eat” (Winston, 2017).