Across the country (and the world), local habitats are being rapidly destroyed by natural and artificial causes. Many locations spend money on creating artificial structures and solutions to mitigate the problem. But many people don't realize that one of the simplest and most effective ecological restoration methods lies in the backyard. Native plants vary by region and are an excellent solution to habitat damage. Native plants are specially adapted to living in specific environments. When used as an ecological restoration tool, they can make the soils in the area more robust, repopulate hillsides and floodplains, and even help restore local wildlife populations.
Benefits of Native Plants
From weakened soil to plant diseases, non-native species and manufactured causes like agricultural production and over-development can jeopardize a local environment. Add to the problem regionally-specific concerns like water shortage, fire, shoreline erosion, and ecological devastation seems insurmountable! One of the biggest problems across the United States is excessive water consumption, leading to water loss. Modern landscaping alone accounts for about a third of all residential water usage. This includes watering gardens and potted plants filled with non-native species not adapted to the local climate. But by switching to native plants, you can reduce landscaping water consumption by up to 75%. This is important everywhere, but it is especially vital in dry, arid desert regions where water is a scarce commodity.
Another way ecological restoration plants benefit the environment is by using fewer pesticides. Pesticides and fertilizers are used individually and commercially to facilitate plant growth. This is especially true in areas where non-native plants have been introduced and need external aid to grow in their local conditions. By planting native plants, trees, and grasses, however, you can significantly reduce the number of pesticides needed. Planting ferns in forested areas and prairie grasses on open fields, for instance, re-introduces native species. Since they already thrive in the local conditions, they don't need your assistance to grow.
Preserve the Natural Landscape
While it might initially be neat to see tropical plants growing in your garden during summer, the reality is that introduced species can (and often do) cause more harm than good. When introducing foreign species, you are setting yourself up for higher-maintenance plant care, as your plantings generally can't grow without help in their introduced environment. Furthermore, non-native species are more likely to introduce diseases and insects that can harm local vegetation. Planting steep slopes with shallow-rooted plants can be disastrous, as slopes need the deep roots of species like serviceberry, willow trees, and ferns to resist erosion. Additionally, non-native plants will likely not survive harsher environmental conditions, such as long winters, which means you waste time, energy, and resources.
Through natural disasters, human activities, or a combination of both, sensitive environments are prone to degradation. Restoring them can be costly and time-consuming, but using native plants can help. Native plants are hardy and resilient, one of the best choices for making a quick, permanent fix to get your local environment back to good health.