Now that we know what a wildscape is, the question arises: why should we wildscape? That is, is there really good reason to change our landscaping habits?
This is a legitimate question that deserves a thorough answer (thus, the longer post!). Although my answer focuses on pollinators, much of what I say applies to insects generally, and thus to the wildlife that depends on them.
Pollinators and other insects provide billions of dollars of eco-services annually in the U.S. alone. I describe just two of those services here.
(Sources: https://xerces.org/pollinator-conservation/; “Bringing Nature Home,” http://blog.nwf.org/2015/04/chickadees-show-why-birds-need-native-trees/; https://www.audubon.org/news/why-native-plants-are-better-birds-and-people)
Pollinators (and insects generally) are in serious trouble. Recent studies show a disturbing and significant decline in overall insect biomass (see here and here). The reasons are varied, complex, and not yet fully understood (see here and here), but here are some of them.
(Sources: https://www.ipbes.net/article/press-release-pollinators-vital-our-food-supply-under-threat; http://greatpollinatorproject.org/conservation/major-threats-to-pollinators; “Bringing Nature Home” and http://www.bringingnaturehome.net/gardening-for-life.html)
(Sources: https://news.ncsu.edu/2017/09/climates-effects-on-flowers-critical-for-bumble-bees/; https://blog.ucsusa.org/science-blogger/timing-pollinators-and-the-impact-of-climate-change; http://greatpollinatorproject.org/conservation/major-threats-to-pollinators; https://xerces.org/bumblebee-threats/; https://www.pnas.org/content/115/44/E10397)
(Sources: http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/HowNeonicsCanKillBees_XercesSociety_Nov2016.pdf; http://greatpollinatorproject.org/conservation/major-threats-to-pollinators; http://pollinator.org/learning-center/pesticides; https://www.ipbes.net/article/press-release-pollinators-vital-our-food-supply-under-threat)
(Sources: “Bringing Nature Home” and http://www.bringingnaturehome.net/gardening-for-life.html; https://www.ipbes.net/article/press-release-pollinators-vital-our-food-supply-under-threat; http://greatpollinatorproject.org/conservation/major-threats-to-pollinators; http://www.tsusinvasives.org/home/database/triadica-sebifera)
Fortunately, we can each do something to help pollinators‒right here, right now, right in our own gardens. In the words of Dr. Tallamy in “Bringing Nature Home”: “[N]ow, for the first time in its history, gardening has taken on a role that transcends the needs of the gardener. Like it or not, gardeners have become important players in the management of our nation’s wildlife. It is now within the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference.”
We make that difference when we garden with plants native to our eco-region and adapt our gardening methods with wildlife in mind.
Now, let me be clear. These individual efforts are not enough by themselves: there must also be top-down change at the international, national, state, county, and municipal levels, along with our individual wildscaping, to save insects. I think of the players needed to save insects as forming a chain, and a chain doesn’t work without all of its links.
But we are one of those links‒and a critical one! That’s because, when we garden for wildlife, we can have a positive impact on the diversity of flora and fauna in our eco-system. I like to tell folks that it’s less the size of each wildscape, but more the number of people who have them that matters. The more wildscapes there are, and the closer they are one to another, the better they support pollinators. Our home wildscapes can together form the “stepping stones” that pollinators need to move around, survive, and thrive.
The realization that I could improve biodiversity simply by how I garden transformed my world view. I felt empowered knowing that I could improve something about which I’d felt helpless before. And I see clearly now that my purpose is to bring this same message of empowerment to as many people as I can.
We may not personally be able to change everything harming pollinators, but we can with certainty change their world for the better‒one garden at a time.
Stay tuned for more installments in this wildscaping series.
Postscript: I cannot highly enough recommend Dr. Doug Tallamy’s book Bringing Nature Home. I had already been wildscaping for about 3 years when I read it, and even at that point, it transformed my way of thinking! For the highlights, you may visit Dr. Tallamy’s website, or view one of his many presentations on Youtube. I tell folks that if I could recommend only one book on the “why” of wildscaping, this would be it.