Our Top Ten Reasons to Care: Please Join Our Movement!
Parks and Nature Preserves are Not Sufficient to Preserve Biodiversity
Historically, conservation has often been viewed as something to achieve on land set aside for that purpose— such as national and state parks, and private (often non-profit) preserves. But in Massachusetts, only about 20% of all the land area is designated as such. If we add in private land with conservation easements, the total "conservation land" increases slightly. But all these "protected" lands face significant conservation challenges from invasive species, and because our human footprint is so large everywhere, conservation no longer works by focusing on only a small percentage of total land area. Consider this— over 90% of the lands in Massachusetts are privately owned, and much of that is in parcels smaller than one acre. More than 90% of the population lives in the cities and suburbs. What we all do matters, quite simply— everywhere.
Habitat Fragmentation Hurts Us All
Over the last four centuries, we have fragmented what was once a continuous ecosystem into discontinuous and ever smaller parcels used for different human purposes. The impact has been especially profound in the past hundred years. Native woodlands have been replaced by subdivisions and houses (with lawns and a few ornamental plants) or shopping centers and highways (with lots of asphalt). This habitat fragmentation is resulting in the extinction and decline of ever more plants and animals. But it doesn't have to be this way. When we restore native plant landscapes where we live and work and play, we can do much to rebuild connectivity that our ecosystem needs and we support species diversity.
More than one-half of Eastern North American Bird Species are in Steep Decline
Our migrants are being hit especially hard. Baltimore Orioles, American Kestrels, Ovenbirds, Wood Thrushes, Eastern Towhees, most warblers, and many other species are on a watch list for possible extinction or designated of high conservation concern (See NABCI, 2016). But we can recreate continuous bird-friendly habitat by working together to plant native trees and shrubs throughout our cities and suburbs, and landscaping our homes and public spaces with natives of all kind. Everything we plant makes a difference.
And Then There Are the Butterflies, the Amphibians...
You guessed it— the loss of native plants and habitat all over the state is greatly affecting butterflies, amphibians, and more. Because butterflies are very particular about where they lay their eggs, and only certain species of native plants can serve as the hosts for particular species of butterfly larva, we need a lot more native host plants to support the more than one-hundred species of butterflies still found in Massachusetts. Today, seven species of butterflies are currently on the Massachusetts Endangered Species list, and several other species are already extinct. Also listed are four species of amphibians, many reptiles, along with other animals and plants.
OH... Native Plants are Beautiful!
Wow... let us not forget! There are several hundred species of native plants that are great choices for landscaping— with lovely qualities for every season, and a myriad of options for color, texture, or other characteristics you might desire.
Native Plant Landscapes and Organic Farms Go Hand-in-Hand
A healthy ecosystem, with strong native plant communities as its base, provides an important context for local organic farming operations. It takes a good balance of predators and prey in the food web, such as lots of birds or bats to eat insects, to avoid the use of herbicides or pesticides when growing food. Native plant landscapes, and the food webs they support, are essential to organic farming.
Mitigating Climate Change
Trees, shrubs, and soil are all tremendously important for carbon capture, and healthy ecosystems with rich biodiversity are essential for cycling nutrients. Native plant landscapes require few, if any, manufactured fertilizers and soil additives, greatly reducing the impacts of the vast chemical industry that produces them. Embracing organic systems in our human living patterns is just as important to solving the challenge of climate change as is increasing energy efficiency in our industrial world. These are important actions we can take now as individuals, without waiting for government and UN agreements!
Property Boundaries are the Invention of Humans and they Mean Nothing to Plants
More and more invasive plants are overtaking our lands— black swallow-wort, bittersweet, garlic mustard, burning bush, Japanese knotweed— the list goes on. Somehow, all those seeds just don’t know that they are not supposed to cross property lines! Controlling invasives will be more effective if we tackle this problem together— gardeners, land managers, farmers, homeowners— and if we replace these invasions with native plants. Coordinated community-based efforts are needed; isolated efforts make the challenge harder to overcome. Why not throw a work party because, let’s face it, who wants to dig out swallow-wort or knotweed by him or herself? And planting together can be fun.
Celebrate and Enjoy Nature Right at Home
With more natives in your gardens you will begin to notice more birds, butterflies, caterpillars and cool things you have never seen before. Sit on your back porch or front porch, or lie on the ground and observe nature all around you. It is rich and fun and intriguing.
The Future is in Your Hands and Under Your Feet