The latest thinking on ecological landscapes. Useful tips to improve our environment

Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

Available for virtual and in-person landscape consulting, talks and classes.

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Flickr_Red Eft

The Power of Every Landscape

It’s no secret to followers of this blog that I encourage the use of regional native plants because they have co-evolved with other living things and support our ecosystems.  These symbiotic relationships are fundamental to a healthy environment.

The great news is that every backyard, every community garden, every rooftop garden, every commercial landscape and every container on a patio can help improve our environment.

Here are some of the reasons why we need to take our role as ecological stewards seriously:

– The Living Planet Index which tracks vertebrate species across the globe, shows a 30% decline in vertebrate species from 1970 – 2008.

– The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) recently announced that 20,934 species are threatened with extinction worldwide, and 70,294 species are of concern, on their “Red List.”

– The U.S. Geological Survey of May 2013 reported that 1/3 of amphibian species are imperiled and stated “declines may be more widespread and severe than previously realized.”

– The National Audubon Society announced that since 1967 the average population of common birds in steepest decline has plummeted by 68% decline. Some species have plummeted by as much as 80%.

– In April 2013, the Xerces Society reported that the population of overwintering Monarch butterflies in California has nose-dived by 80% since 1997.

– U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lists 23 butterfly species as threatened or endangered. The Xerces Society’s “Red List” is even larger, citing 50 butterfly species.

– The average loss for U.S. beekeepers for the winter of 2012 – 2013 was 45.1% of colonies, as reported by the Bee Informed Partnership.

– 34% of conifer species (pines, firs, spruces, cedar, etc.) are threatened with extinction as stated by the IUCN. This is particularly concerning since conifer forests sequester 3 times the amount of carbon that temperate or tropical forests do.

We cannot solve all environmental problems in our gardens and landscapes, but we can make an enormous difference!

Plant Some Regional Native Plants this Labor Day Weekend!
by Kim Eierman at EcoBeneficial!

Photo: Red Eft (Juvenile Eastern Newt)
Photo credit: Flickr/Dave Huth


  1. Holly on August 31, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Could you discuss the benefits of planting natives in relation to what happens underground – the ball of nutrients, fungi etc that last for thousands of years….?

  2. Kim Eierman on August 31, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    You are right – there is a lot going on underground with native plants!

    Some native plants, such as many prairie plants, have very deep root systems, far deeper than those of exotic ornamental plants. These deep roots render the plants much more drought-resistant than shallow rooted plants. These roots are also very effective at stabilizing the soil around them and slowing or preventing soil erosion, especially important after flooding events.

    The vast majority of plants have natural, mutualistc associations with beneficial fungi in the soil, known as mycorrhizae. Some mycorrhizae attach externally to plant roots and some enter the cells of a plant’s root system. It is symbiotic relationship where the plant gains nutrients from the fungi and vice-versa.

    Mycorrhizae are thought to evolve natively with certain plants around them. And different plant species associate with different species of mycorrhizae. For example, the mycorrhiza found on the roots of a pine will be different from that found on the roots of an orchid. Some plants, like some of our native Lady Slipper Orchids, can not be grown with that mycorrhizal association. The complexities of these relationships are not yet well understood, but there is a strong case for growing native plants which have evolved in native soils.

    Thanks for the great question!

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