How to Increase Biodiversity in Your Backyard
Your garden, however compact, can make a big impact on biodiversity in your area. With many species under threat, patchworks of localized gardens are helping to restore threatened bird, bug, and other wildlife habitats. And it isn’t hard to increase biodiversity in your backyard, as you’ll see.
Small adjustments, some of which you may already be making, help promote conditions for species to flourish – and don’t forget that many birds and bugs help your garden in return. There is nothing better than the sound of wildlife outdoors, so follow some of these tips to do your bit for a planet in need!
What is biodiversity in an ecosystem?
The term biodiversity (from “biological diversity”) refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems, and can encompass the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life. In common usage, it tends to refer more to desirable species, such as birds, bees and other pollinators, as well as bug-eaters such as spiders and beetles. Biodiversity has been rightly portrayed by the media as something that urgently needs to be conserved, as more and more species are added to the endangered list.
Photo by Palle Knudsen from Unsplash
Lawn naturalization for biodiversity
A lush, verdant, freshly mown lawn may look great in the garden, but is an unnatural habitat for any wildlife. There are ways to repurpose the lawn space without compromising on aesthetic quality – some would say it would be an improvement. Start by focusing on areas that aren’t suited to grass, planting grasses, wildflowers, trees or shrubs to attract insects, birds, and butterflies.
Plant natives to increase biodiversity
Exotic plants may add a new dimension to your garden’s design, but they can be invasive, edging out native plants, and therefore habitat for native species. Native plants are essential for the creation of an eco-system that will attract – and provide for – insects, birds, and other animals. They will also require less care and attention than exotic plants. If you need some guidance, your local garden center or arboretum (or online group) can help.
Birds are a sign of biodiversity
A garden needs birdsong! But as well as providing atmosphere, birds are great to have as visitors – they’re relaxing to watch, can help rid your lawn of weeds, and are brilliant at eating pests. Providing fresh water is a great place to start – a birdbath will give them a chance to drink and bathe throughout the year. Bird feeders (out of the reach of squirrels) with appropriate food – suet balls, sunflower hearts, mealworms, and even peanuts – will see them flocking into your backyard for something tasty to eat. And you can provide places to nest too – well-placed nesting boxes, out of the reach of predators and direct wind are good options.
Sustainable gardening generally increases biodiversity
Once you get a garden going and growing, you can make it sustainable without a lot of work. In fact, using garden waste to feed your plants, flowers, and lawn actually saves you time. Grass cuttings, fallen leaves, vegetable peelings and more can be composted, and then used as organic fertilizer. And there are plenty of ways to make your own sprays against pests and disease, using stuff you probably have lying around the house – oil, soap, lemon juice, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, among others. Sustainable gardening creates a much healthier environment, which will not only attract birds, bees, butterflies and more, but will help them thrive. And it’s much better for your health too!
Create other habitats for biodiversity over the long term
If you have space in your garden, consider setting up various habitats, with the aim of attracting other creatures. Of course, you may not want to attract some rodents, and depending on your area, snakes could be a no-no. Check out what kind of areas will attract different species, and plant/organize accordingly. Animals feed on different fruits, nuts, leaves and flowers, so look up before you plant. And old, or even dead trees, can be used by chipmunks or squirrels as nesting areas. As with any garden project, effective planning is necessary before you create more habitats – also ask yourself how much maintenance you’re willing to put in.
Ponds lead to an increase in biodiversity
A well-placed pond can be a real hotbed of activity, attracting frogs, newts, insects, birds, and more. Collectively, they support more species, and more scarce species, than any other freshwater habitat – freshwater lakes included! A survey of ponds across parts of England showed that creating clean water ponds was beneficial, increasing the number of plant species, especially the number of rare plant species. Ponds also provide vegetation and water to animals during hot weather, so if you can fit one in it will greatly increase the biodiversity of your backyard.
Many people are choosing to encourage biodiversity in their gardens. Doing so not only helps native wildlife to survive and thrive, it also makes for backyards that look, sound, and smell great.