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Home > Feature Articles > Landscaping > Landscape Design for Sustainable Urban Environments

Fostering Biodiversity In Your Landscape

Biodiversity suffers a one-to-one link between habitat destruction and species loss.

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Birds Use Insects for Protein Source

Almost all North American birds other than seabirds — 96 percent — feed their young with insects, which contain more protein than beef, writes Doug Tallamy, author and biologist.

Doug Tallamy cites the work of Michael Rosenzweig, an evolutionary biologist based at the University of Arizona, who has analyzed data from all over the world and found a one-to-one correspondence between habitat destruction and species loss.

Native Plant Species Threatened or Extinct

In Delaware, for instance, state ecologists say that 40 percent of all native plant species identified in 1966 are threatened or extinct; 41 percent of native birds that depend on forest cover are rare or absent.

Local Specificity of Biodiverse Species

Wildlife is very locally specific. Locally native plants support local native insects and animals. Yes, every plant is native somewhere -- but it is the localized matchmaking of plants and animals that weave a sustainable habitat that supports biodiversity.

Although gardeners might believe that when they plant a butterfly bush native to China, they are helping butterflies. They are merely attracting the adults who sip the nectar. The plant cannot be eaten by the butterfly larvae and without food for all stages of an insect's life -- the species flounders.

Solutions by Gardeners and Landscapers

Gardeners and landscapers can slow the rate of extinction by planting natives in their yards and campuses. California has different plants and insects than the following examples -- but this shows you the incredible diversity attracted by locally native plants:

In the northeast, a patch of native violets will feed fritillary caterpillars. A patch of phlox could support eight species of butterflies. The buttonbush shrub feeds 18 species of butterflies and moths; and blueberry bushes, which support 288 species of moths and butterflies, thrive in big pots on a terrace.

Appropriate Local Species

Appropriate species for local regions are listed by local native plant societies. California is blessed with the California Native Plant Society that provides extensive online resources for landscapers and gardeners who want to foster habitat that supports biodiversity.


Mr. Tallamy is author of the book, "Bringing Nature Home" (Timber Press, $27.95).

California Native Plant Society: The California Native Plant Society (CNPS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the understanding and appreciation of California's native plants.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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