In the past we have designed our landscapes strictly for our own pleasure, with no thought to how they might impact the natural world around us. Such landscapes do not contribute much to local ecosystem function and support little life. Using chickadees and other wildlife as guides, Tallamy will explain how plants that evolved in concert with local animals provide for their needs better than plants that evolved elsewhere. In the process he shows how creating living landscapes by sharing our spaces with other living things will not reduce our pleasurable garden experiences, but enhance them.
Insect populations have declined 45% globally since 1974. The most alarming part of this statistic is that we don’t seem to care, despite the fact that a world without insects is a world without humans! So how do we build landscapes that support the pollinators, herbivores, detritivores, predators and parasitoids that run the ecosystems we depend on? Tallamy will remind us of the many essential roles insects play, and describe the simple changes we must make in our landscapes and our attitudes to keep insects on the ground, in the air and yes, on our plants.
Specialized relationships between animals and plants are the norm in nature rather than the exception. It is specialized relationships that provide our birds with insects and berries, that disperse our bloodroot seeds, that pollinate our goldenrod, and so on. Plants that evolved in concert with local animals provide for their needs better than plants that evolved elsewhere. Tallamy will explain why this is so, why specialized food relationships determine the stability and complexity of the local food webs that support animal diversity, why our yards and gardens are essential parts of the ecosystems that sustain us, how we can use our residential landscapes to connect the isolated habitat fragments around us. It is time to create landscapes that enhance destroy local ecosystems rather than destroy them.
Biodiversity is essential to sustaining human societies because it is other living things that run our ecosystems. Yet, throughout the U.S., we have fragmented the habitats that support biodiversity by the way we have landscaped our cities, suburbs, and farmland. This is a problem because isolated habitats cannot support populations large enough to survive normal environmental stresses. We can reconnect viable habitats by expanding existing greenways, building riparian corridors, and by changing the landscaping paradigm that dominates our yards and corporate landscapes. Replacing half the area that is now in barren lawn with plants that are best at supporting food webs would create over 20 million acres of connectivity and go a long way toward sustaining biodiversity in the future. How we landscape today will determine what life looks like tomorrow.
A growing number of people are landscaping with productive native plants to help conserve local biodiversity, but many know little about the animals they are helping. Tallamy will describe some of the fascinating ways animals interact with the native plants they depend on and describe some of the most productive plants homeowners can use in their landscape to nurture these animals. Anticipating, observing, and understanding these relationships will enrich our lives and further justify the use of natives in our yards.
Once we have decided to restore the ecological integrity of our suburban neighborhoods we need to decide what plants to add to our properties. Oaks are superior trees for suburban restoration projects because of their many ecological and aesthetic attributes. Tallamy will compare oak species to other popular shade trees in terms of their ability to support animal diversity, protect watersheds, sequester carbon dioxide, and restore lost plant communities.
The expense of fighting introduced plant invasions and the unpopularity of restricting the sale of ornamental invasives have motivated several public figures to question the wisdom of continuing to battle invasive plants. After all, they argue, if an introduced plant helps a particular butterfly, bird, or bee, why not embrace it? Using data from several studies, Tallamy answers this and related questions, showing that we can determine the overall impact of introduced plants on our ecosystems only by comparing what is gained from their use with what is lost when they replace native plant communities. Introduced plants are not the ecological equivalents of the native plants they displace because they do not support the diverse and stable food webs that run our ecosystems. Exchanging plants that support all of our animal diversity for plants that support only a few species is ecologically indefensible.
Successful butterfly gardens provide both nectar sources for adult butterflies and host plants for the larval stages of butterflies. It often comes as a surprise that many butterfly host plants are native woody plant species not typically used in butterfly gardens. But to have butterflies we must make butterflies. Properly designed butterfly gardens also support a variety of beautiful moth species, including several giant silk moths. Tallamy will discuss these principles as well as the fascinating Lepidoptera behavior you will enjoy if you provide the proper host plants in your garden.
Because our yards and gardens are essential parts of the terrestrial ecosystems that sustain humans and the life around us, it is essential that we keep them in working order. An important component of productive ecosystems is a diverse and abundant community of pollinators. Much has been written about honey bees but we have ignored the thousands of species of moth and butterfly pollinators in our landscapes as well as our native bee species. Tallamy will discuss the important ecological roles of these species, and discuss the plants required to support their populations in our landscapes. Managing landscapes in this crowded world carries both moral and ecological responsibilities that we can no longer ignore.
Once you have decided to share your property with other species, how do you go about doing that? Can we bring life into urban areas? How do you reconstruct complex food webs in your yard? How can we get more plants into your landscape without it looking wild and messy? Will living landscapes be more prone to insect damage and vermin? Are they higher maintenance? Tallamy will answer these questions and more to help you make your yard a fascinating part of nature.
As people learn about the essential role that Lepidoptera play in our local food webs, there is a growing interest in the natural history of moths and butterflies, as well as their caterpillar stages. Tallamy will take us well beyond the butterfly garden and introduce us to the caterpillar groups we are most likely to encounter; discuss some of the fascinating behaviors that enable caterpillars to survive their natural enemies; reveal the best seasons, times, and ways to find caterpillars; and show us his latest research on the plants that are best at producing the 14,000 Lepidoptera species that live around us.