How Do We Change, and Why?
January 10, 2022
Take a listen – can you hear the wind? Look around at the plants in this area, do you notice lots of different kinds of vegetation, or is one type of plant dominating the landscape? Chances are, you are noticing that the area is mostly grass – particularly one kind of grass. Sometimes grasses are beneficial, native grasses grow deep roots to hold the soil in place and provide valuable habitat to many species. Non-native grasses, though, can sometimes have less beneficial effects.
The grass we are looking at is reed canary grass – which is not what originally grew here. It has thrived, but its role as a food and habitat source for native fauna is limited.
Plants or animals that have moved into an area and taken over, like reed canary grass, are known as invasive or non-native species. Often these species are introduced from other ecosystems, then at some point they may start to outcompete native plants and animals – consuming resources more effectively than other species – this leads to decreased biodiversity as they choke out other varieties. As we learned at the last stop, biodiversity is important for ecosystem resilience. So, invasive or non-native species that overtake entire areas and reduce native species, present a threat to healthy ecosystems.
Generally, the introduction of invasive or non-native species is not intended to harm or reduce native ones, they are either transplanted by accident or to provide a particular service in the landscape. For example, some animals are introduced as predators for a pest, and some plants are introduced because they are considered beautiful, or easy to care for. Similarly, The Muck Farm was not created to reduce biodiversity and increase flooding in the area. These consequences were unintended side effects of focusing on the food production capabilities of the marsh.
As we learn new information about healthy landscapes, and as our priorities shift for the ways we interact with or use the land, we have an opportunity to respond and adapt our behavior to support healthy landscapes and create places that support both our needs, and the needs of diverse flora and fauna.
Learning that biodiversity is an important aspect of healthy ecosystems means it’s important to promote and support biodiversity in the places that we can. This is often done through conservation, preservation, and/or restoration. You might be wondering, what the differences are between three.
Conservation focuses on protecting natural resources and includes the active management of natural systems.
Preservation suggests a hands-off approach to the protection of natural resources to allow nature to take its course.
And restoration means repairing damaged ecosystems to return them to a previous desirable state.
Well, we’ve only got a couple of stops left. As we move to the next one, we’re going shift our thinking from the past to the future.