WHAT IS REWILDING?
It is the deliberate, restorative planting of native plants in urban, suburban, and rural environments in order to counteract habitat loss, sustain ecosystem services, and bring nature back into our daily lives.
Recognizing native plants as the foundation of the local food web is the first step towards rewilding. Native plants are necessary for insect populations, which in turn support bird populations, which serve as a barometer of ecological health and resilience. According to recent research by University of Delaware ecologist Doug Tallamy, native plant species must account for at least 70% of the biomass in a landscape to support a diversity of life. Food webs disintegrate and environments unravel below this key threshold.
Did you know that the monarch butterfly larvae can ONLY develop on plants from the genus Asclepias? These insects have been locked in this relationship for millions of years. If milkweeds disappear from the landscape, so will the monarch. Their populations have already declined by 96% since the 1970s. So many other insects have the same relationship with the plants they have evolved to feed on and depend on us to rewild our landscapes.
BERRIES FOR THE BIRDS
We will all witness birds feasting on the berries of introduced shrubs. In fact, it may appear as though they like and enjoy them as much as they do the berries of native shrubs. The problem that arises is due to, as science has shown, the fact that the berries of introduced shrubs such as multiflora rose or Japanese honeysuckle, as examples of many others, contain very little fat compared to native berries such as those of native shrubs like gray dogwood or viburnum. Birds mostly feast on the berries in the fall to build up the energy they need for overwintering or for their long migration south. The sugar-laden berries from introduced plants do not offer the fat they need as sustenance.
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum slicaria) and Phragmites (Phragmites australis) are natives of Europe and it is thought that they were used as packing materials in the ballasts of ships coming to North American ports in centuries past. These plants, (purple loosestrife still being sold in some nurseries), have completely invaded our wetlands, forming dense mats over large areas, and degraded habitat for many native birds and insects. They crowd out other plants, thereby reducing biodiversity. Many introduced ornamentals have the capacity to displace our ecologically beneficial native plants and degrade local ecosystems. Plant Liatris species instead of loosestrife, and Sorghastrum instead of Phragmites.