About 95 percent of the U.S. land mass has been subject to human development of some kind. About 5 percent remains “pristine.”
Man is now the primary intelligence responsible for what happens next. We are the land stewards, for better or for worse, ensuring sustainability or collapse.
“We will lose most of our plants if we lose most of our animals, and we will lose all of those animals if we don’t take care of our plants” — Douglas Tallamy.
Our current practices of land development along with the voracious destruction of ecosystems and their services is ensuring the eventual collapse.
By the remarkable work of Douglas Tallamy, we are given four fundamental Landscape Ecological Goals:
1) They must support a diverse community of pollinators throughout the growing season.
2) They must provide energy for the local food web.
3) They must manage the watershed in which they lie.
4) They must remove carbon from the atmosphere, where it is wreaking havoc on the Earth’s climate.
Our obsession with the barren/sterile monoculture of unproductive green lawns (including exotic/nonnative flora) provide virtually none of these goals — no support for pollinators, no habitat for wildlife, often degrading watersheds with unnecessary fertilizers and biocides, and the constant mowing of lawns emit more carbon than lawns modestly sequester. (Our landscapes need not reflect our perfectly ordered pristine living rooms.)
Native plants satisfy all of these four ecological goals.
They are indigenous to our bioregion, established within and by the bioregion itself, its flora and fauna, and critical for ecosystem maintenance and services. They are insect- — caterpillars, butterflies, bees — and bird-friendly hosts. They are efficient carbon sequesters and do not require fertilization or maintenance.
Native trees (oak, willow, cherry, birch, cottonwood, alder, maple) can support caterpillar life, feeding our local breeding birds, which spread native seeds to reproduce more of their goodness and value. Trees grow large rooting systems that nourish and aerate the earth, allowing water infiltration and retention. Their fall leaves, if wisely left composting where they wisely fall, benefit the soil microbiology while providing safe insect habitat.
Nature has it all sorted out perfectly.
Our current landscape aesthetic is dysfunctional and counterproductive. If we can begin to care and really embrace the high responsibility now on us individually, as the final and last-call stewards of this amazing garden, perhaps we can begin to restore much of what we have already and so sadly lost.
“The path to sustainability lies along a continuum, with low (or no) ecological function at one end, and a vibrant, ecological machine churning out ecosystem services every minute of every day at the other” — Douglas Tallamy.
One fine body…