Biodiversity in action
Edges are wonderful examples of biodiversity in action. They are areas where one type of habitat meets and blends with another. Wildlife loves to live on the edge. In fact, edges are some of the most popular wildlife spots we know of. That's because the two colliding habitats create a third distinct edge habitat — and different wildlife species flourish in each of them. A spot where sand dunes and bushes, wetlands and fields, or orchards and meadows meet is an example of an edge habitat. What kind of edges can you find in your community?
Succession means success
Succession is something that happens when, over many years, one type of habitat changes gradually and naturally into another. As certain plant species are replaced by others, succession turns an abandoned farm into a forest. Succession can also transform a small pond into dry land, or an area burnt by fire into a lush green space again.
As a habitat gradually changes, so does the wildlife that lives in it. Species that live happily on farmland may move on to another spot when succession begins to work its magic. Slowly the changing land becomes home to different wildlife species. Succession is going on all the time in nature.
What would happen if you allowed natural succession to take place in your schoolyard? Here's what you can do to find out:
- Mark off an area to be left alone — no lawnmowers allowed!
- Inform your school and community about the experiment. Put up a sign that explains your plan to passersby.
- Keep track of the changes you see in your field journal. What kinds of plant and animal species begin to use your experimental succession plot?
Give wildlife an edge
If you want to do wildlife a big favour, try planting edges in your schoolyard. There may not be room for very large edges, but even on a small scale you can achieve great results.
A few trees surrounded by a ring of shrubs, which are then encircled by wild flowers and grasses, and finally bordered by open lawn, will do very nicely. This arrangement provides several small edge environments for wildlife.
If you are cramped for space, you can plant edges only at the sides of your schoolyard, where there may already be some trees growing. If you plant borders of shrubs alongside them, then flowers, grasses, and open lawn, you will be creating small edges for a host of wildlife.
Make the most of a little space with the help of a layered look! Plant shrubs under trees, with vines twining up the trunks, and finally grasses and wild flowers under the shrubs.
A downtown edge
Even city schools with paved playgrounds and limited space can plan habitats to attract a few insects, birds, and small mammals. Have a strip of asphalt dug up all along your schoolyard fence. A 15-centimetre-wide strip of earth will make quite a difference for wildlife.
Plant climbing vines such as Scarlet Runner Beans, grape vine, Virgin's Bower, Bittersweet, or Dropmore Scarlet Trumpet Honey-suckle Vine. All these species will give wildlife a boost with their berries and blooms. Birds often nest in the cover provided by grape vine and Virginia Creeper.
Be patient. It will take time before wildlife discovers your sprouting habitat. Your downtown edge may only attract beetles and spiders, but it is still an important habitat.
More than a windbreak
Shelterbelts and windbreaks are used to protect agricultural fields, buildings, livestock, gardens, and orchards from the force of the wind. They also help control soil erosion and drifting snow. Shelterbelts are larger than windbreaks, but both do much the same job.
These habitat havens are magnets for an amazing array of wildlife in search of food and shelter. Typically, they contain rows of trees and shrubs at varying levels. They are a super example of vertical and horizontal diversity rolled into one.
If you feel ambitious, and your schoolyard has enough space, then plant a windbreak. It doesn't have to be the size of a farm shelterbelt to work. This is a long-term project that can be expanded year by year. Some species will use your windbreak right away. And as it continues to grow, more and more wildlife will come waddling, wriggling, and wandering by.
© Canadian Wildlife Federation
All rights reserved. Web site content may be electronically copied or printed for classroom, personal and non-commercial use. All other users must receive written permission.