How to increase biodiversity at home! With your own backyard ecosystem.
Promoting biodiversity at home is a simple way to help preserve nature. Not only does it brighten your morning view it helps encourage a wide range of animals, plants, and insects to inhabit your backyard!
We’re not talking about super complex, high-maintenance ecosystems here, but rather small adjustments you can make in your own garden to improve biodiversity right at home. Not only will you benefit from the wildlife that will soon come to play, but it’s a worthwhile and fun way to help teach the next generation the importance of looking after our planet.
There are so many things you can do to kick-start your own backyard garden ecosystem. Have a ‘wild corner’ where weeds such as Goldenrod and Joe Pye Weed are left to blossom, which allows pollinating birds and insects to contribute to the ecosystem. You can also include a simple pile of rocks and sticks/logs in your design to allow insects and fungi to flourish! These are just a few things that will help you increase biodiversity. Let’s take a deeper look at how we can increase biodiversity at home.
What Is Biodiversity?
First, things first… what is biodiversity exactly? When we talk about biodiversity, we aren’t specifically talking about increasing or including non-indigenous, rare, or threatened species of plants and animals, we are talking about all the varieties of life on Earth!
Biodiversity is a combination of two words, biological and diversity. This one word symbolizes and embodies… every. single. living. thing. on. earth. From microorganisms, plants, animals, and their habits to everything in between.
Participating in biodiversity conservation has never been easier with the mass of information online. The media is somewhat helping to increase awareness of the loss of global biodiversity. The decline in biodiversity is grave. More and more species are being added to the endangered list, with some even going extinct. With every loss there is a ripple sort of effect, directly impacting the food chain. No animal or human is left untouched.
Have you ever seen the Bee Movie? It is a children's animated film that was released in 2007. If you have then you know that the goal of the movie is to bring awareness to the dying bee population. It brings to light the magnitude to which Bees contribute to pollination and what would happen if they stopped functioning. If you haven’t seen the movie I won’t ruin it, (it’s actually pretty good for a kids' movie if you can get over the weird bee falling in love with a human thing) but let’s just say when the bees stopped working, life stopped flourishing.
How to increase biodiversity?
The wonderful thing about being human is that we understand what needs to be done to increase biodiversity, and are capable of doing it! The ecosystem in which you reside will determine the challenges you might face in terms of biodiversity. In order to familiarize yourself with more of the uncommon yet indigenous flora and fauna in your area, it might be a good idea to do some research.
You should also consider what risk factors there may be in play that affects the biodiversity in your community. You might find that a large number of domestic and feral cats are killing birds around your neighborhood. This is a common issue in other countries, including North America, which struggles with domestic and feral cats killing tens of millions of birds each year!
There are other things on a larger scale that impact the biodiversity of the entire planet, such as global warming. We all know global warming is causing devastation worldwide with floods, storms, and destruction of ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef. What can we do to help? Walk short distances instead of driving, and be more aware of your Carbon Footprint! The Rainforests are being destroyed by companies for Palm Oil, so shop for sustainably sourced products when you can. If we all make small changes, it means big things for the biodiversity of our planet!
How to create an ecosystem in your backyard to help increase biodiversity at home?
In 2016 the Monarch Butterfly was declared an Endangered species by COSEWIC (the Committee for the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). Due to loss of habitat, climate change, herbicides, and pesticides.
They’re not the only ones, according to COSEWIC, there are 700+ species at risk in Canada alone. Pollinators and a number of other species across the world are struggling for survival, but there’s a way we can help them from the comfort of our own backyard. A UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’ was published by the United Nations in 2019.
The article shows that biodiversity has been decreasing at unprecedented rates, the health of ecosystems that we as humans rely on (as well as all other species) are deteriorating and will have huge impacts on food security, livelihoods, economies, and the overall quality of life worldwide… So now is the time to help increase biodiversity at home by diving headfirst into your own backyard ecosystem!
Even if you live in a small apartment with a patio or window sill you can make a difference. It all starts with the outdoors…
STOP using Chemicals in your yard
This might seem obvious, but by using chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides in your backyard you are killing biodiversity. These chemicals are just bad all around... They are harmful to humans, plants, animals, and our water supply. Literally everything.
They contaminate the grass, soil, and water which leads to the poisoning of insects, fish, and the birds that eat them. This has a huge impact on global biodiversity and is one of the many reasons we are seeing a shocking reduction in species of bees worldwide. If we keep seeing a decrease in insects we will very quickly start to see the impact on our plates as they are a crucial part of our food chain! (Again, if you haven’t seen the Bee Movie you should watch it!)
Without insects for pollination and birds to control the insect population, we will experience food hardship as fewer crops will be pollinated, and we will see more crops being eaten by non-pollinating insects.
The more contaminated our waters get, the less fish there will be. For example, let’s look at Canada’s salmon population. There are 24 species of Salmon in Canada of those 24 species 8 are endangered; 2 are threatened; 5 have a special concern; 9 are not at risk. 15 out of 24 species of salmon are in some sort of trouble. That’s an alarming 63% of Canada’s salmon population. Salmon not only feeds humans but many animal populations. A decline in salmon would have a ripple effect that is sure to leave its mark in nature and on your plate.
If the above wasn’t enough to change your mind about using pesticides in your yard, research has shown that exposure to pesticides is especially harmful to children. The use of herbicides and pesticides has even been linked to certain cancers, issues with the nervous system, and insecticides have been known to impact the development of babies during pregnancy.
Instead of using harmful chemicals, why not opt for natural pest control, like diatomaceous earth for ants, roaches, fleas, and a number of other pests. Plant a lemongrass/citronella plant to keep mosquitos at bay and look into using environmentally friendly products for your garden. You can also make an effective DIY natural bug spray to help with pesky bugs.
Landscape your yard with biodiversity in mind using native trees, shrubs, and flowers
If/when you decide to add greenery to your yard consider going native. Try focusing on trees and plants that are found in your community or region.
By doing a little research and looking past the aesthetic appeal that flowers and plants add to a yard you can make a big difference. Aim to provide natural habitats for fireflies, dragonflies, butterflies, and other insects native to Canada, which add their own aesthetic appeal. Just by doing some simple research on what flowers, trees, and shrubs are native to your area you are helping provide food and homes for native insects and animals.
Other benefits of choosing native species are that they are much easier to maintain than foreign species as they are specifically designed to be there!
They will often require less water and are perfectly adapted to the specific conditions of the local environment. One issue with not using native species is that foreign flowers, trees, and bushes can be much more invasive, and have been reported by the United Nations as one of the top five threats to biodiversity due to how rapidly they can spread. Non-indigenous plants have unintended consequences for the local environment. Planting native species will help other “natives'' feel at home too, so it’s a win-win!
Make a pollinator garden to attract pollinators and other insects
Planting a pollinator garden is a great way to help increase your area's biodiversity and is pleasing to the eye as well! You can create your very own biodiversity-boosting garden by planting a wide variety of plants that bloom at different stages of the year from early spring to late autumn to help ensure a constant food source for insects.
To make a pollinator garden you want to again, find out what flowers are native to your region and choose the ones that are pollen and nectar-rich.
It is important to choose a range of colors, shapes, and sizes of pollen-rich flowers (enter the diversity part of biodiversity). You want to have a variety of flowers to attract a diverse set of pollinators. Each pollinator has its own unique way of collecting nectar or pollen and having a large variety of flowers to choose from ensures you will have a successful garden.
The goal of a pollinator garden is to give butterflies, bees, and other insects who pollinate shelter, food, and water to help make their lives a little easier. And by doing so they are helping us grow fruits and veggies. Your garden should be a pesticide-free habitat.
Another easy thing you can do without purchasing any native flowers is to simply let your weeds grow (in a controlled manner of course, or they will take over). Native wildflowers and weeds are typically not harmful, and can help to attract a spectacular mix of fascinating insects, and even small creatures like shrews, moles, and certain species of bats! It’s kind of amazing that just by letting your weeds grow you can create a pollinator garden to help increase biodiversity. So now when someone tells you to go mow the grass just tell them you’ve ‘built’ the perfect ecosystem and are helping the environment.
Build a pond to add an open water source for your ecosystem
Ponds aren’t just beautiful areas of peace in your backyard, they are also crucial for providing the perfect habitat for insects, frogs, fish, and small local animals.
A pond or water feature can provide a bathing and drinking area for birds and smaller wildlife and it doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. You can create a small pond area in your yard by simply digging out a space, getting some pond PVC lining with the relevant filtration, and the job is done… Or you could get a bit more creative by adding rock/stone detail, lily pads, and even a garden pond bridge if you wanted a true masterpiece!
Come Spring, you could find tadpoles, and watch as they develop! Maybe a turtle will have found its way to your backyard too.
If you don’t have the space for a pond, why not add a birdbath to your outdoor area instead? Not only will they attract birds, but also pollinating insects and even cute squirrels and chipmunks!
#SAVETHEBUGS Let insects flourish to build your food web
I know we’ve already talked so much about the importance of insects, but there are so many simple things you can do to help them, and we need to #SAVETHEBUGS.
Wild food is so easy to provide for insects, especially by planting native perennial fruit and nut trees, bushes that produce berries, and nectar-producing flowers… But how can you create a bug home?
Well, if you have any dead trees or logs on your property… Leave them there! Dead trees make the perfect habitat for birds, insects, and small mammals alike, plus they can be fascinating to look at! You can also make a little rock and stone area in a hidden part of your garden to provide shelter for insects like Pill Bugs who play a huge role in the ecosystem by feasting on decomposing flowers, fruits, and vegetables which return organic material into the soil to enrich more flowers. Wild rabbits, hares, mice, and shrews all need a safe place to live and nurture their young, so you could even find them in your old tree!
Create habitats for native species in your area including birds, small animals, and reptiles
In Quebec, 15 species of farmland birds are at risk due to overfarming. Birds like the Bobolink are struggling as they are loyal to their nesting place and return to the same area to nest every Spring.
When those areas are destroyed, the species start to suffer as they need time to adapt and find new areas to nest. The Western Chorus Frog will currently only lay eggs in spaces free from predators such as fish, meaning they currently use wetlands to lay these eggs. These wetlands dry up each year, meaning that although it is not a suitable habitat for fish, they can also dry up before the tadpoles have fully developed into frogs.
Wild rabbits are another species in the decline due to their natural habitat being destroyed and humans hunting them. We can help to protect these animals and the biodiversity of our local areas by creating habitats in your own backyard. To help the Bobolink and wild rabbits, let vegetation grow! Instead of cutting weeds back and mowing the lawn, letting them grow can provide invaluable shelter.
If you can let briar and bush patches grow, you may find a nest of lovely baby bunnies there one day! To help frogs and other reptiles, you can make a backyard pond with ease, or create a small ‘wetland’ for these animals so they can thrive. It really can be as simple as digging two hollows, covering the area with plastic and arranging strokes and ground-level bird baths to mimic small pools. Even in the driest weather, all you need to do is regularly add water and your ecosystem will bloom.
Once you’ve set up your own little backyard paradise you can appeal to your local city council to do more. Ask them to increase biodiversity in your city by dedicated land or even creating a man-made pond if they’re able. Even if you live in a busy city a rooftop garden is a great way to bring in pollinators and other little critters to the area. Putting a potted flower plant on your window sill … all of these little things help.
You can increase biodiversity in your own backyard!
Not only is creating your own ecosystem rewarding, but it also benefits the environment too!
You can increase biodiversity quickly and easily in your own backyard! And if all the benefits above aren’t reason enough, it’s also incredibly rewarding building an ecosystem from scratch, knowing you're not just helping the environment, but humanity too!
If you’re not able to dedicate your backyard, or don’t have the space, remember, even one small act, as simple as a potted plant can help a population of insects thrive.
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