By creating habitats for native species in your area, you can help them thrive. Learn how to increase biodiversity in your garden or backyard. Every little step counts. Let’s get started!
What Is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth. It’s made up of all living things: plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and more. Biodiversity helps ecosystems function well. It also creates food, water, shelter, and other resources for our planet’s inhabitants.
Biodiversity is important for many reasons. For one thing, it ensures a healthy environment for all organisms on our planet. Biodiversity can make our food supply sustainable and healthy. Additionally, biodiversity creates natural habitats for wild animals. These wild animals, like birds and mammals, need enough food and shelter to survive.
What is genetic diversity?
Biodiversity is about more than the number of species. It’s about genetic diversity, too. Genetic variety is what makes us different. In humans, genes make us short or tall, have brown hair or blonde hair, and much more. In plants, genes determine things like:
- how much a plant will flower
- when the plant will flower
- the plant’s defenses against insects
- the plant’s defenses against parasites and pathogens
What does biodiversity have to do with conservation?
When you value biodiversity, conservation becomes key. That’s why so many organizations are trying to save rare species and varieties!
How to create biodiversity in your backyard
To create a biodiverse habitat, we need to provide variety. You want more than grass. You’ll need different kinds of plants: trees, shrubs, flowers, vines, and the like. Grasses and other ground cover can help fill in the spaces, instead of dead mulch or gravel. By having many different plants, we’ll attract many different species: birds, animals, and insects.
When you plant the right species, you’re inviting beneficial insects and birds to visit. A diverse garden will help maintain the ecosystem balance. Plus, many of these critters, like hummingbirds, are cool to see! Incorporating different plant species into your garden also helps provide habitat for local wildlife.
Let’s explore a few different ways to create biodiversity in our backyards!
How to increase biodiversity: organic gardening
Organic gardening practices can also promote biodiversity. Organic gardening practices include:
- planting companion plants
- never using pesticides or herbicides
- protecting plants from pest insects with physical barriers (e.g., nets)
Organic gardening is great for wildlife. And creating your own compost is great for vegetable gardens! When you create a source of water and shelter in your backyard, more wildlife will visit. Cut down on pesticides in your garden, and you’ll help protect local ecosystems. Organic gardening has a lot of perks!
How to increase biodiversity: plant native plants
If you want to create a biodiverse backyard garden, you need to include natural features. You can start by planting native species and flowers that attract pollinators. That includes:
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Blue Vervain
- Purple coneflower
- And many more!
Plants like the butterfly bush aren’t native, but some alternatives, like butterfly weed, are easy to find. The natural world is full of native plants and green spaces that support helpful insects. Milkweed is a popular native plant that supports Monarch butterfly larvae.
How to increase biodiversity: make habitats, not gardens
You should create habitats such as ponds, rock piles, and log piles for wildlife. This is “habitat heterogeneity” in science talk. Basically, create a bunch of habitats, and critters will come. There are lots of little things you can do to create these spaces. A bird feeder is great if you don’t have a lot of room.
A biodiverse backyard might include:
- a pond, a bucket “mini pond”, or bird bath
- a bird feeder or two (seed, suet, and even hummingbird feeders are great, easy additions)
- a rock garden or rock pile
- a compost pile
- a flower garden
- a vegetable garden
- a few trees or shrubs
- a trellis or arch for vining plants
How to increase biodiversity: grow fragrant, native flowers
You should choose native plants adapted to the local climate and soil. A fragrant garden becomes a pollinator garden. Your native garden will grow healthy and colorful flowers, shrubs, trees, and more.
One way to do this is by planting a variety of different plants in different areas of your garden. This creates habitats for wildlife like birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Native trees are also great for local pollinators, so be sure to plant trees.
It’s also important to be mindful of the pesticides and other chemicals you use in your garden. Pesticides can harm wildlife and beneficial insects. Instead of using chemicals to control pests, try natural methods. Natural methods are also known as bio-controls or organic controls.
Finally, when you choose your plants, avoid invasive species that can disrupt the local ecosystem. Ornamental plants may be beautiful, but you can usually find native alternatives.
How to increase biodiversity: use pollinator plantings
To create a biodiverse ecosystem in your backyard, you can try several things. For example, you can plant greenery that attracts pollinators and other beneficial insects. Some plants to consider include wildflowers, pollinator-friendly plants, clover, and Eastern beebalm. Native pollinator plants:
- attract pollinators to your garden
- provide food and shelter for pollinators
- provide cover for other wildlife
- often don’t need a lot of maintenance and watering
How to increase biodiversity: let trees and shrubs thrive
A biodiverse garden isn’t just about the plants. You should also add a variety of trees and shrubs to enhance the diversity of your garden. Native plants are ideal because they provide habitat and food for wildlife. They’re also easy to maintain. They won’t fall down during the first winter storm because they’re adapted to the climate. You can also use built habitats like birdhouses, bee boxes, bat boxes, and bug hotels. These attract birds, pollinators, and other wildlife.
Be sure to leave some areas of your garden untended to encourage wildlife to thrive. You’ll provide areas for animals to find shelter and food sources. This will create a healthy ecosystem for all the creatures living in it. Besides, planting fruit trees and shrubs can attract birds and insects to your garden. This will help to make your garden a haven for different species.
How to increase biodiversity: create habitats for native species
It is easy to create habitats for native species in your backyard and garden. Plant native species like wildflowers and shrubs. This will create a natural habitat for local wildlife. Trees, bushes, and other plants all provide shelter, food, and cover for animals.
You can also build birdhouses and nesting boxes to encourage birds to visit your garden. This is a great way to attract local biodiversity. You can expect visitors like songbirds, finches, wrens, and chickadees. You can even get woodpeckers at your bird feeders! One of the most common visitors to bird feeders is the squirrel, so be prepared to either encourage coexistence or deter the little poachers.
Water features are an important component of many natural habitats. These include ponds, streams, wetlands, and other water features. Water features provide shelter and habitat for frogs, turtles, fish, and dragonflies. Water features that are carefully maintained will NOT worsen a mosquito problem.
Another way to create habitats for local wildlife is with piles of leaves, logs, and rocks. These’ll be shelter for small animals, reptiles, and insects to hide in. Not only will you help enrich the biodiversity, but you’ll be giving them with shelter and food.
How to increase biodiversity: Go organic – no pesticides, herbicides, or poisons
To create biodiversity in your backyard and garden, it’s important to go organic with pest control. Avoid pesticides, herbicides, and poisons as much as possible. You can have a sustainable life and garden without chemical pesticides. Instead, plant species that are beneficial to local ecosystems. This can include plants like wildflowers, shrubs, trees, and grasses. They’ll feed pollinators and other animals.
Organic gardening is really just about outsmarting pests. Use tools like netting instead of chemicals to keep cabbageworms away. Or purchase ladybug or praying mantids to keep other pests at bay.
This approach to gardening supports many insects and animal life. When you create a balanced ecosystem in your backyard, you also create a habitat for wildlife of all sizes.
You can increase biodiversity in your own backyard!
Hopefully, you now feel more confident in how you can create biodiversity in your garden. With climate change bearing down on us, we have to take steps to make our yards sustainable. Environmental organizations like Dogwood are leading the way.
Have you gotten a few ideas about creating habitats for native plants and wildlife? Are you ready to start increasing biodiversity in your backyard? You can keep unwanted pests and weeds away, while supporting local flora and fauna. Remember: start small and be patient. It takes time for new plants to thrive!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about increasing biodiversity in your backyard. Do you want to learn more about the biodiversity all around us?
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