Gardens are important for biodiversity
This is a pivotal decade, the first when the balance of the world’s population lives in cities, and the hunter/ gatherer way of life has dissipated. We are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction, the world’s wildlife has declined by half since 1970 and 20,000 species are currently endangered and competing for scarce conservation resources (IUCN Red List, 2014).
Gardens are important for biodiversity, and biodiversity is vital for gardens. Gardens are becoming more important for maintaining biodiversity as habitat destruction increases and modern farming techniques turn agricultural lands into deserts for wildlife. The decline in invertebrates affects the whole food web and long term effects are unknown. There are conservation successes like Landcare, but the future is grim.
If gardens are important for maintaining biodiversity that means that everyone can engage in nature conservation through their garden, allotment, window-box or community garden. George Seddon argues that ‘gardeners are, in fact, one of the most important groups of land managers in this country, since between us we manage more than 50 per cent of all urban land in Australia, that is, the land that carries 80 per cent of the population: land that is not vast in area compared with that managed by farmers, pastoralists, miners and state agencies, but greater in value and in resource consumption than all of them.’ ( ‘The Garden As Paradise’, 1997).
David Attenborough recently said, ‘Every space in Britain must be used to help wildlife.’ Gardens combined form large interconnected areas of green space important for overall ecosystem health, whereas conservation resources focus on rare ‘charismatic’ species like tigers. Gardens have enormous wildlife potential. Jennifer Owen recorded 2,673 species in her small ordinary English suburban garden, four new to science! Some argue that nature conservation in urban and semi-rural environments rather than isolated nature reserves makes better use of resources. (Jennifer Owen, Wildlife of a Garden: A Thirty-year Study, Royal Horticultural Society, 2010.)
The financial cost to the world of not preserving ecosystems and biodiversity is about $4 trillion a year, the cost in our lost natural inheritance incalculable. But gardens are a source of wonder and fun; children encounter nature first usually in gardens.
Save your energy, water and herbicides – get rid of your lawns, and don’t tidy up habitats, leave homes for invertebrates and small mammals.