Biodiversity, the number of different species in a habitat, is important for any habitat in any biome.
Many people have heard of plastic in the oceans, extreme deforestation in the tropics, and poaching all over the world. While these issues are very important, there are also smaller, very specific habitats that also deserve attention. These are habitats that many people have likely seen, places that are given little thought. These habitats include hedgerows, farmland, transitional zones between forest and meadow land, and even roadsides.
Hedgrerows are common, divinding fields, yards, or other places like commercial zones. These narrow strips of vegetation are home to a large array of creatures. Unfortunately, hedgerows are becoming less hospitible to wildlife due to the following factors:
Pesticides, herbicides, chemical waste, etc. can kill off a large number of species. Hedgerows near farmland or yards can suffer greatly from chemicals.
Invasives grow and reproduce quickly, and can cause the biodiversity of an area to decine rapidly.
Some people do not realize the value of hedgerows, and so they will sometimes either remove existing hedgerows, or they won't plant them or leave vegetation between fields or yards during construction.
Farming has evolved and changed throughout the decades. Like hedgerows, a few factors have been causing farmlands to become less appealing to wildlife because of:
Same as hedgerows, farmers will spray chemicals on their crops to kill pests and yeild a bigger, better crop. While this is understandable, especially if farmers or landowners are trying to get rid of unwanted pests and invasives, this can also cut the natural biodiversity occuring near farmland down to almost nothing.
Hedgerows are important to farmlands. They serve as a visual divider between fields, and can even become a home for beneficial pollinators and insect eaters. Part of the reason people get rid of them is that hedgerows can also be home to pests and weeds.
When cattle ranches and land developers take away the native prairie grasses, wildlife is unable to live there. Jim Willis is the President of the Wildlife Habitat Federation, and in "The State of Quail", he shows an example of native grass. In the documentary, the impressive length of the roots are easily seen, and those roots conserve moisture. He explains that: "Man has come in and ripped out a lot of this native grass and planted what [they] call 'Improved Grasses' which is really not improved, they're an invasive species [...] and [the invasive grasses] don't give back to the soil. They take from the soil." To make things worse for not only quail but also other animals, this invasive grass is very thick, and is very difficult for smaller animals to walk through.
Transitional Zones look like a cross between a forest and meadow, with young trees and sometimes wetlands. Transitional zones are being threatened by:
People like building on transitional zones. Unfortunately, this destroyes the ecosystem living there.
While uninteresting at first glance, many roadsides are actually home to many species. Many country roads where I live are full of goldenrod, cornflowers, Queen Anne's lace, milkweed, and a variety of other plants. These plants look their best in September.
No matter where you live, whether you live in an apartment flat, a suburban home, or on a large farm, you can attract wildlife to your property and turn your lawn or unused patch of ground into a haven for plants and animals. Here is a table showing how to utilize different types of space:
|Planting Native Plants|
|You can look up what types of plants are native to your area, and then purchase them online or at a store. Audubon Society has a great database of native plants. It is a good idea to get a plant that will grow well in the space you have. Get sun-loving plants if you have a clear yard or sunny porch, and get shade plants for darker areas. Also consider the amount of moisture the plant needs. All of this information can usually be found on the back of the seed packet, or on a tag or label attatched to the plant.||Depending on what you decide to get, you can attract different creatures. For example, planting milkweed will attract monarch butterflies and caterpillars.||You can put native plants in an existing garden, find a good place in your lawn or field, or you can even keep one in a pot on a porch or balcony if you don't have a lawn.|
|Making a Brushpile|
|If you have a lot of trees on your property, you can make a brushpile quickly and easily. It is essentially a pile of large sticks. Make sure you build the brushpile in an area where it won't be disturbed by lawnmowers, dogs, etc.||Chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, and a variety of birds, reptiles, amphibians and bugs enjoy brush piles. Your visiters will vary depending on where you live and how much moisture and sun the brushpile gets.||Brushpiles are best for an average yard or bigger.|
|Putting out a bird feeder|
|Birdfeeders are easy to find and cheap to purchase. You will need to pick the right birdfeeder for your area. If you have a lot of "bully birds", like pidgons or starlings, you will want to buy one of the feeders with a cage around it, which will let the smaller birds through. Different food items attract different species. To attract hummingbirds, you can purchase a special hummingbird feeder. Never put food dye, honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup out for birds. These are bad for them. Instead, mix 2 parts warm/hot water to 1 part sugar.||Depending on your choise of seed and the type of feeder, different birds will visit. Black oil sunflower seeds are the best for attracting a wide variety of birds. Orials love oranges and berries, and safflower attracts mourning doves and squirrels don't like eating it. In addition to hummingbirds, other animals may sometimes visit a hummingbird feeder. Woodpecker species, some fruit loving birds, and even some species of lizards, like anoles, will enjoy visiting the hummingbird feeder.||You can put feeders out on your porch or in your yard. You can also put them out on a balcony. There are many differnt styles and types of birdfeeders, so find the one that fits your space.|
|Providing a Clean Water Source|
|Providing a water source can be done in a number of ways. Make sure to clean out water dishes and birdbaths reguraly to prevent the spread of disease.
||All living things need water, so provinding clean, safe water is a great way to make your yard more wildlife-friendly. Depending on what types of water sources you choose to have, different creatures will visit.||Water sources work well anywhere outdoors in a yard, on a porch, or on a balcony.|
|Old Boards / Wooden Logs|
|If you have some old boards or logs, you can put them in different places in your yard to attract cratures and encourage moss, fungi, and lichen growth. As the old wood decomposes, it delivers nutrients back to the ground. Remove old nails from your wooden boards, and also make sure to use boards without paint or varnish. During the summer or 2022, we took down our old wooden porch. The wooden planks sat in the yard for a while, and ended up attracting a surprising amount of garter snakes and redbellied snakes.||Old boards and logs are a welcoming place to animals escaping from heat, but these will likely attract creatures no matter where you put them, as long as they are on the ground. Snakes, lizards, and various invertabrates love hiding underneath logs. Placing old logs/boards is a great way to attract invertabrates and smaller reptiles and amphibians if you don't have space for a brushpile.||These attract the most creatures placed on the ground, ideally near lots of vegetation and leaf litter.|
|Composting To Improve Biodiversity|
|Compost bins can be bought at garden stores or online. Compost piles work better if you will be composting a lot of organic matter. For both bins and piles, choose a space outside, preferably a space that gets some shade and doesn't already have a little microbiome living there. You will want to avoid crushing any native plants. Move any stones or other large objects from where you will start your pile or bin. Old dead leaves are a great way to start a compost pile, and are also a great way to mark where you wil put your compost. Bins are a bit easier, you can put one near your animals or your garden.
Refer below if you don't have much experience composting. While composted vegetables, herbavore feces, and dead leaves smell lovely, composting the wrong things will make a mess, and attract unwanted pests.
What You Can Compost
What You Must Never Compost
|A healthy compost pile will be home to a variety of fungi, earthworms, microbiota, isopods, and springtails. Deer might visit your compost pile to eat discarded vegetables. This is usually harmless.||If you live in an apartment or subdivision, a compost bin is the best choice. Compost piles work well for large yards or farms.|
|Making a Toad Abode|
|This is a wonderful way to recycle cracked terracotta pots, although other pots can also work. However, terracotta is the best choice as it is porous and absorbs water. Bury an old pot about halfway into the ground, somewhere the toad abode won't be disturbed. You can also plant moss near the toad aboad, and place a shallow dish nearby. Adding moss and a dish is a great way to provide moisture, which is extremely important for amphibians.||In addition to toads, these little homes may attract news, salamanders, small reptiles, or invertabrates.||These can be placed in little out-of-the-way places around a yard, or in a flower garden.|
|Container gardens are a wonderful way to attract wildlife, even if you live in a story-high building. Containers in a variety of shapes, colors, materials and sizes can be found online or in gardening stores. Just like large gardens, you can choose to grow native plants, shade plants, succulents, butterfly plants, or vegetables.||Depending on what you plant, you can attract different creatures. Try planting amaranth for bumblebees, or agastache flowers for hummingbirds. A succulent garden may attract pollinators, and planting dill in a vegetable garden will attract swallowtail butterflies and larvae.||Container gardens are a great way to add life to a porch or balcony.|
|Installing a Bat House or a Birdhouse|
|These can be purchased, or you can find instructions to make your own.||Depending on where you live, your bathouses may attract a variety of bat species, and somebirds will also build nests on the roof of the bat house. Different types of birdhouses attract different species of birds.||These can be installed to a house or a tree, or mounted on a stand. Bathouses usually do better when they are attatched to a wall of some sort.|
Whether it is by building toad shelters with your kids, or sharing clippings and seeds of native plants with others, involving others is a great way to spread appreciation for nature. See if you can involve your neighborhood. This neighborhood planted native plants in their yards and were able to save 15 million gallons of water in just one year. By reaching out to others, you can make new friends while helping cultivate a love and interest in wildlife and in keeping your local habitats healthy and beautiful.
This is organized by region, so you can find information on species near you.