May 22 marks International Biodiversity Day, this year celebrated with the theme of “Building a Shared Future for all Life”. This UN celebration covers a wide range of issues and actions related to climate, health, food and water security and sustainable livelihoods.
Biodiversity is essential to healthy ecosystems and supporting life on earth. Unfortunately, biodiversity, or the variety of all living things on our planet, has dramatically declined in recent years. This decline can largely be attributed to human activities, such as land use/habitat loss, pollution, and a changing climate. The good news is, this means that human activities can also help increase biodiversity.
Here are a few actions you can take at home to support the animals, plants, and organisms of the Wissahickon Valley:
Plant a variety of native species: Native plants support a complex web of insect life that then provides resources for birds and other animals. Many of our local bees, moths and butterflies require specific species of plants to support a part of their lifecycle. Without those plants, those species will not survive.
Reduce your lawn: Ecologist and author, Douglas Tallamy, suggests that if we could all replace half our lawns with productive native plant communities, we could create more than 20 million acres of habitat out of what is now “ecological wasteland”. This is more area than most of our major national parks combined! Even replacing a small portion of this would go a long way toward encouraging a more diverse community in our yards.
Reduce chemical use: A healthy ecosystem creates its own pest control system. Ladybugs eat aphids, ground beetles eat soil dwelling pests like slugs, and lacewings eat a variety of soft bodied pests.
Create habitat: Leaving the fallen leaves in your garden areas provides important protection for a variety of insects over the winter months. Cutting hollow plant stems in early spring provides nesting sites for cavity nesting native bees.
Work together: Work with your neighbors to plant different species. This increase in variety can have an even greater impact on biodiversity. Get involved in your town environmental committee or your homeowners association to advocate for reduction of grass and chemical use.