West Cook Wild Ones loves science– scientists explain the world to us and impact many parts of our lives. One of these areas is our own yards or landscapes in which we we work or live. Science is telling us that even if we are in an urban area, our yards are incredibly important, providing habitat and refuge for many migrating and residential animals. Further, our yards can help to reduce the introduction of invasive plants into our forest preserves and other natural areas.
The fields of evolution, ecology, climate change, soil biodiversity, hydrology all have important lessons for us and all have direct application in our own landscapes. For example, take the lesson of evolution: plants and animals evolved together. Planting heavily from other continents means putting together plants and animals that have not had any evolutionary history together millions of years (or at least since Pangea, which is why Elizabeth Kolbert gives the Anthropocene Age an accompanying moniker, The New Pangea), and those plants from other countries cannot support the food web, which, to put it in stark terms, means many animals cannot find enough food to survive.
What you can do and what the science says:
- Remove invasive plants: Invasive plants destroy essential and beautiful ecosystems and cost us billions of dollars each year.
- Plant native trees and shrubs–supports biodiversity because of the evolutionary relationships.
- Plant native forbs and grasses.
- Disconnect down spots from the sewer system: reduce pressure on the sewer system
- Create a Rain Garden: keep the water on your property and allow it to slowly be absorbed into natural systems (recharge the groundwater; evaporation).
- Reduce garden clean-up: many overwintering animals rely on the plant “litter”; see our articles on clean-up.
- Leave some soil bare: provides nesting habitat for 70% of our native bees
- Plant densely and in swaths: plants act as a mulch, provide cover and easy forage for animals.
- Avoid pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids: Neonics are implicated in a range of negative impacts on animals and on water quality.
- Participate in a Bioblitz (or other Citizen Science project). You’ll help to create data scientists can use and have fun and perhaps get acquainted with the flora and fauna right outside your door (what Jane Goodall calls the mysteries and wonders of evolution).
- Summer 2018–UIC Researchers are studying spiders in urban gardens, and your garden can be part of the study: Spiders in the Garden Research
Let’s live science in our own yards and support the many animals and plants that can co-exist among us. They are willing to do so if we are willing to provide welcoming habitats.