Thursday, May 27, 2010

Native Plants, Native Animals

Throughout history, mankind has dominated nature and shaped the landscape to suit its needs. Forests were cleared, wetlands were drained and grasslands were altered in order to plant crops and carve out living areas for ourselves. As technology and human ingenuity has progressed, the pace at which our natural areas are converted to suburban landscapes has greatly increased.

Islands of suitable habitat, like Westmoreland Sanctuary, have been left behind. In the past, these islands were of substantial size and capable of supporting a large array of plant and wildlife species. But now these islands are relatively miniature in size and largely incapable of sustaining stable populations of organisms for very long. So looking into the future, where are our wildlife species supposed to live?

In "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas W. Tallamy, the answer is right in our backyard. Actually, Mr. Tallamy declares it is our backyard. In our suburban environment, the one we have altered so greatly, he believes we have the ability to reshape the landscape once again. What are now overly simplified, fragmented, and disjointed remnants of habitat could be landscapes which are livable for us and our wildlife. We only need to make the choice to include native plants which sustain the wildlife species of our area.

North America’s native fauna have become compatible with native flora thanks to a millennia of evolutionary adaptation. The presence and abundance of non-native, ornamental vegetation in our yards and natural areas is contributing to the degradation of wildlife habitat. The plant-animal interactions necessary to maintain the integrity of an ecosystem are not possible in an area dominated by non-native vegetation. According to Mr. Tallamy, this is why is we need to reanalyze how we select plants for our suburban landscapes.

In the coming months, Westmoreland Sanctuary will be offering an example of how homeowners can aesthetically design their properties and provide beneficial plants which provide critical elements of habitat so sorely needed: food, shelter, and places to raise young. Our landscape design has been developed with the generous aid of Margi Corsello. She has carefully created a plan for the front of the Naturalist’s Cottage which will be a visual upgrade to the current garden arrangement and serve as a tangible example of wildlife-friendly landscape design for area homeowners and landscapers.
While the project is still in its infancy, we would like to encourage anyone who may be interested to come by and have a look at the progress that is being made this summer and into the fall. Anyone interested in helping us complete this project are also asked to stop by and speak with the sanctuary staff. There are a number of ways to be involved. We can certainly use help with the installation of hardscaping, planting, transplanting, etc. We would also welcome the donation of native perennials, shrubs, and trees – either transplants or nursery stock – and monetary donations towards the completion of the project would also be greatly appreciated. Please call the office (914-666-8448) or send email (westsanc@optonline.net) for a complete list of plants needed to fill the landscape plan and to learn more about the project.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

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