What do we mean when we say we want to help you bring nature home? It may sometimes seem like nature is all around us and that our personal contribution to biodiversity is not of such a great urgency as biologists are telling us that it is.
After all, as we drive up and down the 401 Expressway, it seems like nature is all around us. Isn't it enough to take care of conserving our wildlife and our resources? What about those tree lines and forested patches that lay between our agricultural fields? Surely they must provide enough to ensure biodiversity? Or do they? These relatively small, isolated, fragmented habitats that seem like they should provide enough food and shelter for particular species often remain empty. We may find a beautiful patch of woods that offers the opportunity for a lovely walk in nature but why do we find it so devoid of life and so silent? The answer may lie in the lack of connectivity between these fragmented habitats.
As Douglas W. Tallamy, Professor of entomology and wildlife ecology and Author of Bringing Nature Home and Nature's Best Hope, insists that we need a new conservation plan. "We now live in a world in which habitat - places that provide both food and shelter for plants and animals - is so fragmented, and those fragments are so isolated from one another, that they are haemorrhaging species at an alarming rate". And when he uses the term "haemorrhaging", he does not mean that species are leaving and going elsewhere as the distance between viable habitats has in many cases become too great to accommodate their exodus. Their habitats have become fragmented by roads, housing projects, fences, and other man-made barriers.
So what can we do about this, with the small rectangular patches of land we inhabit? It begins with your wildlife-friendly garden, which can be a seasonal refuge or resting point for many migrating creatures. Now, if we can start to connect these isolated natural habitats to more and more ecologically enriched backyards to allow wildlife to move freely between them and reach the natural habitats they are searching for, populations might begin to grow again. We can create "wildlife corridors", or contiguous habitats, the primary role of which will be to provide areas of safe travels between natural areas, where insects, birds, mammals, amphibians and people can live in harmony.
Wildlife corridors must be constructed landscapes that are ecology enriched to the point that they become areas where plants and animals can not only move through, but successfully reproduce. We need to allow our backyards (any backyard, no matter how small!) to support life cycles and local biodiversity. The first step in this conservation effort is to shrink our lawns, which are the least productive of all our plantings. Small steps can have a big impact.
Can one family make a difference? Certainly. A great place to start is to plant native plants, shrubs and trees that support the greatest number of species with nectar, leaves, berries and seeds (opt for a native red maple instead of a non-native Norway maple, for example). Avoid the use of pesticides at all costs, which will harm pests' natural predators such as ladybugs and praying mantises and aim for a natural approach to pest control. Provide sources of water (from a simple bird bath, to a fountain or pond). Shelter can be provided in the form of rocks or logs. Also removing invasive species from your gardens can help.
Did you know that you could get your garden certified as "wildlife-friendly" by the Canadian Wildlife Federation? Get certified here: https://cwf-fcf.org/en/explore/gardening-for-wildlife/action/get-certified/