Listen up gardeners: the fate of a local, sustainable ecosystem may be in your own backyard.
According to Dr. Douglas Tallamy, professor and chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, gardeners can be local environmental stewards. “Now, for the first time in history, gardening has taken on a role that transcends the needs of the gardener. Like it or not, gardeners have become important players in the management of our nation’s wildlife. It is now within the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to ‘make a difference.’ In this case, the ‘difference’ will be to the future of biodiversity, to the native plants and animals of North America and the ecosystems that sustain them.”
So Dr. Tallamy writes in his book, “Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens.”
Furthermore, Tallamy tells us: “Unless we modify the places where we live, work, and play to meet not only our needs but the needs of other species as well, nearly all species of wildlife native to the United States will disappear forever. This is not speculation. It is a prediction backed by decades of research on species-area relationships by ecologists who know of what they speak. And the extinction of our plants and animals is not a scenario lost in the distant future. It is playing out across the country and the planet.”
The predictions of mass extinction are based on the assumption that the vast majority of plants and animals cannot co-exist with humans in the same place at the same time.
“Nonsense,” Tallamy retorts. “Evidence suggests that the opposite is true. Most species could live quite nicely with humans if their most basic ecological needs were met. In our haste to make vast parking lots, shopping malls, lawns and soccer fields we have removed food, shelter and nesting places. It doesn’t have to be that way. We have excluded other species from our living spaces through thoughtlessness, not through need.”
We humans must start to play well with others. We teach our children to share. Now it’s our turn, and we need to learn quickly.
It all starts with bugs
Insects are essential to a healthy, bio-diverse ecosystem and, in such a balanced situation, they will keep each other in check.
Insects are pollinators. Without these little critters there would be no apples, pears, cherries, nuts, berries, melons, squash√ñ. or coffee. And, do you know that some plants rely on insects to distribute their seeds?
Plants convert sunlight to food. Insects eat plants and grow big and healthy. Animals that cannot digest plants can eat the insects. It’s a beautiful system; without insects to convert plant material to proteins, most higher land animal life forms will go extinct.
When it comes right down to it, without insects human beings would find this planet a very inhospitable place.
So, what’s happened to all the bugs? Dr. Tallamy remembers, as a boy, that driving at night during the summer would produce “a blizzard of nocturnal insects in the car’s headlights.” Today he sees only the occasional moth flutter by.