Bring Biodiversity and Its Benefits to Your Garden!
By Maddie Mann, AmeriCorps Communications and Education Associate
The word biodiversity gets thrown around a lot. We have heard time and time again how biodiversity is important and beneficial to ecosystems, but something we don’t hear enough about is how biodiversity can benefit US. This makes it even more enticing, doesn’t it? We as gardeners, farmers, land owners, plant lovers, all benefit from biodiversity every day. Bringing it to our own practices is not as complicated as it seems.
The Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity, by definition, is “the variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem”. The more the merrier! Biodiversity is what keeps our ecosystems in balance, and we should want to keep it that way. It ensures that our plants and wildlife get everything they need to thrive. Think food, water, and cover.
Many insects are specialists, meaning the only eat one kind of plant, like monarchs and milkweed. So the more diversity you have in your garden, the more species you can attract! Similarly, the addition of water can make it even more of a haven to birds and wildlife. Adding a bird bath or small water feature can attract a whole new range of wildlife, from frogs to dragonflies. There are several easy ways to add some cover and build habitats, like brush piles, stumperies, and more. These are especially helpful as we get into the colder months. Many pollinators hibernate through the winter and these shelters can be safe places to do so.
What a Biodiverse Garden Can Do For You
Not only does creating a native and biodiverse garden benefit your local ecosystems, but these benefits extend to you! Native plants are an anchor of healthy and biodiverse ecological communities. Biodiversity is important because it both provides and regulates the ecosystem function. Wildlife support the ecosystems we rely on for food, clean air and water, a stable atmosphere, and more. They eat pest insects and pollinate plants. Most pests are also specialists, only attacking a limited number of plants. In a diverse landscape, plant diseases and pest numbers don’t tend to build up, because there isn’t enough of any one plant to support a huge population of pests. And, with many different kinds of animals around, the pest species are more likely to be prey species, limiting their populations. Essentially, the more wildlife you attract, the more benefits come with them!
Native Plants for Biodiversity
The importance of native plants when talking about biodiversity cannot be overstated. Native plants and animals have evolved co-dependently, and have formed biodiverse communities. Additionally, native plants require less care than non-native species, have adapted to local soils and conditions, reduce the use of herbicides and pesticides, and decrease soil erosion. Learn more about the importance of native plants and where to find them here.
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum)
Milkweed (Asclepias ssp.)
American Holly (Ilex opaca)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
“You don’t have to save biodiversity for a living, but you can save it where you live. And you should.”
— Doug Tallamy
In an ideal world, everyone would be promoting biodiversity and have gardens and yards filled with native plants, even if there were no benefits for themselves. However we both know that’s not our reality, because then this article wouldn’t need to exist. We are extremely grateful to those of you who are previously aware of biodiversity and native plant benefits. If the notion of a few personal benefits helps us get this message through to a wider range of gardeners and growers, then great! It’s important to know that we can contribute a great deal with our own yards and gardens. Author, ecologist, and conservationist Doug Tallamy says that “You don’t have to save biodiversity for a living, but you can save it where you live. And you should.”