Remember biodiversity? It basically means a variety of living things that need each other to survive. To help wildlife, we must look after Canada's biodiversity, and one great way of doing that is to protect plants. You see, even if just one type of plant disappears, we could lose a lot of other species that depend on it for food or shelter. So, when we pamper a plant, we're also looking after habitat for frogs, turtles, insects, birds, and more.
There are so many rare plant species in Canada that need our help! The Yellow Immaculate Lily has been found at only nine sites in all of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta. It grows along roads, where it is in danger of being dug up by construction crews.
Nova Scotia is home to some very unusual plants, such as the Thread-leaved Sundew, which grows in bogs. It is one of a small group of species included in Nova Scotia's rare coastal plain flora. Several plants in this group, such as the Water-Pennywort, Pink Coreopsis, and Plymouth Gentian, grow nowhere else in Canada. Most are found around bogs and along gently sloping sand and gravel freshwater shores near the East Coast. Among these coastal plain species are the Buttonbush, White Fringed Orchid, Common Meadow-beauty, Swamp-Milkweed, Long's Bulrush, and Golden-crest.
Help these plants out! If you know a shore line where any of these rare species grow, spread the word. Prepare and distribute a fact-sheet to alert landowners and lake users about the importance of these shore-line habitats. Include the following suggestions:
- Learn to recognize these plants at a glance.
- Walk carefully along exposed shore lines or at the edges of woods to avoid trampling delicate plants.
- Keep all-terrain vehicles away from shore lines and wetlands.
- Do not rake shore lines or make artificial beaches by bulldozing.
- Instead of traditional docks, urge landowners to build ones that cause less environmental damage.
Wildlife Highways and Byways
Borders around schoolyards, houses, hospitals, shopping centres, farms, parks, and wood lots are like highways for wildlife. They help rabbits, weasels, chipmunks, and many other species move from place to place. Biologists call them travel lands or corridors.
Hedgerows, fence rows, windbreaks, and shelterbelts all make terrific travel lanes for small animals. Fence rows can easily be adapted to attract pheasants, porcupines, and more. Keeping them grassy is one good way. Planting vines, shrubs, or even a tree here and there will provide additional cover and food. You can also build rock or brush piles as safety spots for snakes, shrews, and other small creatures.
A windbreak consists of trees and shrubs, one to five rows wide. Larger ones are called shelterbelts. Both make great travel lanes for everything from mice and deer to songbirds and hawks. These living sound barriers help prevent soil from drying out and blowing away. They trap snow and keep it from drifting. They can even lower your family's heating bill.
Why not start a new windbreak or improve an old one for wildlife? This project is excellent for a class or whole school. Consult first with your provincial or territorial wildlife office to make sure a windbreak is suitable for your area. Sometimes it's best to leave natural areas unchanged.
Starting a New Windbreak
- Your windbreak should consist of three or more rows of native trees and shrubs. Make it at least 7 metres wide.
- Plant rows of shrubs along both outside borders, taller trees on the inside. (Viewed from the end, your finished windbreak should look like an upside- down "V".)
- Use both evergreen and deciduous species for a variety of food and shelter.
- Space your shrubs and trees so they'll have enough room to grow yet provide lots of shelter.
- Interspace the trees or shrubs in each row in a pattern alternating with the ones in neighbouring rows.
- Plant your rows in a line perpendicular to the prevailing wind and upwind from the space or building you want to protect. Think crooked! Gently zigzagging rows will appeal to wildlife.
Sprucing up an Old Windbreak
- Add deciduous species to a coniferous windbreak or vice versa. Diversity is the key to providing year- round food and shelter.
- Leave snags (dead trees) in place to provide nesting cavities for birds and small mammals. They also provide perching sites for birds and homes for insects, which will attract even more feathered visitors.
- Food-producing shrubs can be planted between the tall, established trees of a single-row windbreak.
- Add one or more rows of shrubs to the windward or leeward sides. Avoid two-row windbreaks. Wildlife can die of exposure or suffocation if snow is trapped between the rows.
- Contact your government wildlife branch for more information.
Welcome Wildlife to Cities
Did you know that a wildlife welcoming revolution is going on in many Canadian cities? Where stretches of mowed and pesticide-sprayed park turf once lay, a diversity of wildflowers and grasses now bloom. In the hearts of busy downtowns, native bushes and trees provide a wide choice of food and homes for many wild creatures. And because chemical sprays are used little or not at all, helpful insects, such as butterflies, bees, Ladybird Beetles, and Praying Mantises, can go about their business unharmed
This new trend in park maintenance is known as "naturalization". For example, in Prairie cities with windy, dry climates and temperature extremes, it makes sense to plant native vegetation that needs little maintenance or water. Coarse native grasses are left unmown, ensuring dense, healthy growth that chokes out weeds, while allowing plants to reseed themselves.
Naturalized Areas Are Neat!
Besides helping wildlife in a big way, naturalized urban areas offer many other benefits:
- Topsoil is protected from erosion.
- Unmown taller grasses absorb noise, act as a visual screen, and remove airborne pollutants.
- Native species require little or no watering.
- The diversity of wildlife is increased.
- Money saved on lawnmowing can be used for natural weed control or to purchase native grass seed.
- Naturalized parks are good for outdoor education.
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