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Discussion in 'Plants: In the News' started by Daniel Mosquin, Oct 14, 2009.
How important is it to preserve native vegetation in urban areas?
What native vegetation? Around here anyway most things other than persisting native trees and shrubs in parks and other wooded places are of Eurasian origin. The extreme but not rare example is urban hillsides consisting primarily of bigleaf maples etc. poking out of smothering, kudzu-like mantles of Irish ivy.
I've taken small groups on edible plant walks of urban areas near me. While I am not looking for native flora per se, I am finding those odd specimens that grow in crevices of parking lots or out from under city shrubs, as well as edible fruits from trees planted as ornamentals.
In a city the size of Orlando or Daytona, the impact on biodiversity is somewhat offset by the limited extent of the concrete jungle. We have extensive fallow and wild and park areas. What I usually find in urban rubble and sprawl are distorted specimens.
An old friend, Green Deane of Eattheweeds.com and youtube, had a little go-round on another list recently because he referred to the local dandelion as a pathetic red thing. I knew exactly what he meant. Neither the flower nor the leaves are actually all red, but there are tinges of red in the distressed leaves and stem, and even in the outermost petals. I would say this is due to the heat and the drought augmented by the urban environment. We find this sort of distortion and variability in a lot of familiar plants from up north.
I do know that even small cities like mine can have an adverse impact on biodiversity. There is a crustacean northeast of Orlando in a very limited area. I've found it in privately owned springs that are likely to be capped by encroaching development. I didn't follow the specifics, but our native plant society went on a rescue of some Habenaria spp. before airport expansion, because we knew the habitat was being destroyed.
I like that odd things persist despite human footprint, but recognize that so many flora and fauna are adversely affected. How many city dwellers know that a crabapple is more than a pretty flower, or that watercress really does grow in clean streams, or that wild rice grows nearby? Wildman Steve Brill takes people on wild edible tours of Central Park in NYC among other places. He can always find edible plants both introduced and natural, but the impact of development is always changing his environment, too.
Other than deliberately keeping untouched or minimally touched park areas, and possibly having a City Parks department that understands the need and desirability of biodiversity, I'm not sure what else we can do. The developed areas will inevitably contaminate and encroach on the wild areas.
We relocated some Habenaria. No one is moving my blind crayfish. University of Florida is aware, though. (They are the ones that finally ID'd my little albinos.) It's hard to get people excited about things like this. Orchids are pretty, but some bland white composite, or tiny snake, or swamp grass, or albino crayfish don't have the cachet that orchids do. If they disappear because of burgeoning city development, maybe no one will notice.
Of course, species extinction is the way of the world throughout eons. We don't always anticipate what one extinction will mean for other species, though.
The current astronomical rate of extinction is due to human overpopulation. There is a difference between extinction occurring due to natural causes - something normal that we can do nothing about - and the extinction problem we are faced with today. Every day, throughout the year numbers of species disappear forever. We are but a single species ourselves, this very day and each and every day this week, this month, this year... dozens or more of other species will be extinguished by our activities.
I'm not quite sure what the title means. Is it that cities wipe out native plants?
I'm also a little uncomfortable with the idea that we are somehow not part of the "natural" processes of extinction. Yes, we do make large changes, but so do herds of elephants. Don't forget that we, too, are still evolving! As a species, human beings are very young yet. The way I figure it, either we will learn how to get along with each other, all the other species, and the planet, or we will become extinct.
Re: the title -- follow the "More" link in the thread starter, and then the additional links in that weblog entry. I think that'll clear up any confusion.
Good question. Was not sure if you were looking for postings on the blog page.
I've heard some designers in our area talk about the "hardiness" of natives, and to use them much for that reason in urban landscapes.
But I find that native does not equal / = hardy or drought tolerant. For example, the skunk cabbage in Oregon grows in saturated soils. Not dry areas.
Both natives and imports can do fine. Sometimes I wonder if it's okay for some species to invade and become established. Because over the centuries, many species native to our local areas were not always there. This relates to other things I've thought about, regarding mankind potentially beating a head against the wall to fight certain changes like climate or erosion.
For practical purposes, I'd consider natives locally in regards to whether they are essential for certain kinds of birds, organisms or other wildlife that really need certain species of plants.
Herds of elephants are not killing off dozens or more species every day. The problem is apocalyptic, and due to the fact that our enormous numbers are not, in fact operating within natural systems but rather wiping them out.
So did meteor strikes - were they not natural? I think that if we are not natural, we would not exist. I don't quarrel with your point re destruction,but I DO see us as part of nature.
In college, I had a class with an anthropology prof who made this statement:
A bulldozer is just as much a part of the ecology of a place as the wildflowers upon which it sits, or the bird in the tree above it.
Most of us were shocked and appalled by this...but he made a thought-provoking point.
Unless a person is prepared to state that having volition renders us "unnatural," I think the point is made. OK, we have made some poor choices (or have we? If another glaciation is coming, we may NEED that greenhouse effect!), but we are here, and I really see us as part of the ecosystem.
Too often I see 'native plants' used in urban and unnatural settings. The native plants are not provided with the appropriate soil and microclimate conditions. However while native plants are important for habitat and habitat refuges are needed in urban settings. I don't really believe that it's possible to provide wildlife habitat using only native plants.
The extension of the idea that everything we do is part of nature is that we therefore do nothing to save the environment - our environment - because killing the planet with our activities is the result of a natural progression.
Man-caused global warming will do and already is doing a lot more than make some northern gardens warmer in the winter.
It may be your extension, it's not my extension. The "slippery slope" argument is one with which I am familiar, but I don't use the idea that we are part of nature to excuse destructive behavior, any more than I would use the existence of the more primitive parts of my brain to excuse simply taking what I want away from anyone who has less power or strength than I do. As rational, volitional beings, we all need to learn to behave respectfully towards the planet; if for no other reason, because we ARE a part of nature.
I am sure in other parts of the world it can be a concern but living in and around the Fraser Valley from Vancouver to Hope you don't get that feeling. How many plants have become extinct here?
Apparently quite a few. If I remember correctly, it's about 10 years ago, over 130-140 species in the Fraser Valley.
Piper found and recorded multiple species growing natively in the Seattle area during pioneer times that have not been seen for a long time since. Many plant people would probably be surprised to learn that some of these species ever grew wild in this particular locale.
When you obliterate habitats with saturation development it's a real spoiler for wild species, both plant and animal.
We do make some effort to try and maintain original stands of bush growth. There are many urban parks and joining creek corridors. This has helped maintain the animal and bird population. The cockatoos are a sight to behold as they forage along freeway strips. A great many councils are now using native vegetation for roadside plantings. Some of this has been bought on by the drought. We also have many friends groups here that weed forest areas of weeds such as ivy, sycamore, bamboo, bannana passion fruit and wandering Jew. This city [Melbourne] is very wide spread and open so streets are planted with trees even right in the city centre. Many parks and gardens. Peoples own gardens are also a part of this quilt. I am always amazed at how quickly a new housing area disappear under a tree canopy.
For my part I have 2 bush remnents in my paddocks that are doing very well and are linked to the roadside stands of original growth.
That is really incredible 130-140 plant species gone forever just in the Fraser Valley. Living here really does gives one a false sence that not much has changed. Being surrounded by The Coast Mountians on the north and Delta to the south with the Fraser River runnig through the centre all this with all its vegitation.
In the USA the extinction leader is Hawaii, where most, even all of the "vegetation" people living on the edge of/away from built up corridors look out the window at may consist of non-native species. Many communities have forested mountains behind them, due to a public watershed system being instituted fairly early - already by the 19th century the deforestation problem was so bad whaling ships coming to Lahaina sometimes had to sit offshore and wait for the dust to settle. Lower slopes in both dry and wet zones (the state has an extreme precipitation spread, from near desert to one of the wettest places on the planet) are often covered by exotic trees and shrubs brought in initially to control erosion or having gone wild due in part to the nearly denuded landscape being open for colonization. Forest areas still dominated by native trees and shrubs are now confined primarily to cloudy ridges and other settings higher up or farther inland.
Although not as bad here, with native trees at least still on the skyline in local cities, I do see a similar pattern of invasion and sometimes even dominance by plants of foreign origin. In Seattle ivy (Hedera) has been said to be the worst weed on public lands. There is also a lot of Himalayan blackberry in evidence, over a wide area - including much rural land.
Over here, it's more the other way round - the skyline trees are mostly exotic (primarily Acer pseudoplatanus, Sorbus intermedia, Cupressus Ã— leylandii, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana), but much of the non-planted lower weedy vegetation is native (some exceptions though).
Since moving to Langley Prairie B.C.(central Faser Valley) about 25 years ago I have not seen the disappearance of Wild Tiger lilies and Easter lilies along roadside ditches which are being filled in. Tha last Tiger lily I saw growing was in Cambell Valley Park South of here in the Hazellmere Valley.