Laura Marx, forest ecologist with The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts
By Laura Marx
What works for investments, school classrooms and diets also works in nature, too. If you want to keep your yard and your woods healthy, it pays to be diverse.
But why does diversity matter to Mother Nature?
Ecosystems with a wide range of plant and animal species are often the most able to survive natural or human disturbances that a less diverse system would not recover from.
Single-species systems are especially vulnerable to invasive insects and diseases, as well as to droughts and storms.
And an area with a range of native species will often take less time and effort to keep healthy. Compare the amount of water, fertilizer and work your lawn requires — with its single or few species of grass — versus a meadow or a hayfield.
Anyone can create a diverse ecosystem in their garden or yard with a little work and thought:
The rewards are well worth the effort.
Here's another way to think of species diversity: as a way to hedge your ecological bets.
Losing one out of six species is a lot less devastating than losing one out of one. And if your goal is growing wood or food, you'll benefit in another way as well.
In ecology, we've long understood that species divide up their available living space, so that two complementary species planted together can grow larger than just one of those species growing in the same space.
Remember: Ecology applies to your backyard, too.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not represent those of The Nature Conservancy.March 08, 2011