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Bad News, Good News

Earlier this month while attending a conference I had the pleasure of listening to a speech by Doug Tallamy, author and entomologist at the University of Delaware. His talk, about creating a balanced community i.e. between the natural world and the built world of man, started out horribly depressing. In the U.S. we have 62,500 sq. miles of turf grass; one-third of all bird species in the U.S. are in decline or endangered; "Birds lost 50% of their habitat because we're mowing and raking the world," he quipped.
96% of bird species eat insects. We've left only tiny habitats in our suburban landscapes and many of those contain plants that aren't native, hence the insects that birds, amphibians, and mammals would be feeding on, just aren't around. Only tiny populations can exist in tiny habitats, and tiny populations are vulnerable to extirpation and extinction. Our remaining natural areas--in too many places--are not large enough to sustain creatures.

What to do?
Fortunately, we can do something. Tallamy suggests we reduce our lawn area by at least half and plant native species. For instance, oaks support over 150 different kinds of caterpillars. Hmmm. . . what eats caterpillars? We need to share our space; we need to root out our biological deserts and create functional ecosystems for the creatures we share ecosystems with. We should attempt to reproduce food webs. Are you worried about creepy-crawlies? If you mimic natural systems, most of those creepy-crawlies will be kept in check by their predators--if you let nature do her thing! Animal diversity comes from plant diversity, he noted.

At first I thought his talk was going to be nothing but gloom and doom, doom, doom. No, instead, he instilled us with hope that we can actually do something and create a better living space for all of God's creation. Check out his book: Bringing Nature Home; it's in my "To-Read" pile.

Comments

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