Create a Wildlife Habitat Garden in Your Backyard

Whether you have a backyard or a balcony, you can enhance biodiversity by providing a habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and myriad other living things.


| March/April 2003



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If you could engage in one activity that would increase biodiversity, reverse species extinction, build soil, improve your neighborhood, provide sensory richness, teach people how ecosystems function, and deliver soul-satisfying fun all at the same time, wouldn’t you do it? Creating a backyard wildlife habitat accomplishes all that and more. If you feel powerless in the face of ecological devastation, here’s where you get your power back.

The great irony of home building—natural or otherwise—is that we create a place for a few humans while destroying the habitat of countless other species. If you build a single house on a large piece of land, the wildlife may eventually adjust around you—if you don’t landscape inhospitably. But in suburbs and cities, the dense buildings, with their concomitant paving and pesticide-laden non-native landscaping, force everything from birds and bees to soil microorganisms to seek happier ground or die out.

Globally, habitat loss is the greatest threat to biodiversity and a major factor in species extinction. As human settlements grow, natural areas become smaller and more fragmented. Migratory birds lose their stopovers, pollinators must travel farther to find food, and amphibians become deformed by contaminated air and water. Urban areas are now the true deserts; natural deserts support far more richness and diversity of flora and fauna than do most backyards.

Fortunately, we can do something about this. Whether you have a backyard or a balcony, you can enhance biodiversity by providing a habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and myriad other living things. This is easier than it may sound; the concepts are simple, the work is best done one step at a time, and a lot of information and support are available.

You are also likely to get back more than you put in: hearing birds sing by day and crickets chirp by night, watching bees and butterflies on their pollinating rounds, seeing sunlight glint off trickling water, and catching the scent of flowers and rich earth nourish us in profound ways. Anything less rich-textured than this natural complexity with which we evolved is unsatisfying to our bodies and beings.

What is a habitat garden?

It might seem that any garden is good for biodiversity. But there is a big difference between a garden of exotics (non- native species) managed with pesticides and fertilizers and a garden of native plants that relies on soil building and natural pest controls and nurtures native wildlife. In fact, the three Eurasian grass species that constitute the bulk of lawns are of little use to most beneficial insects and animals.





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