Why it Makes Ecological Sense to Convert Your Lawn into an Ecosystem
A Brief History
English Medieval knights created grassland areas around their castles to be able to see their enemies from far. The grass was maintained by cows and sheep belonging to commoners.
In the 16th century, Renaissance Kings converted farmed land around their castles into grassland to signal that they were wealthy enough not to have to grow food on all their land at a time when their subjects were starving. The land was planted with thyme and camomile as ground cover.
The first grass lawns were cultivated in the 17th century by very wealthy Landowners in England. The grass was grazed by animals but also weeded and
scythed by servants to display wealth and status.
In the 19th century, Scottish Immigrants brought lawn bowling, golf and grass seeds to Canada.
The first North American Golf course was opened in 1873 in Montreal.
1830 the lawnmower was invented and by 1890 produced as an affordable household item.
In 1850 New York's Central Park was designed and Parks became a sign of community wealth.
In 1950 suburbs of epic scale were built and included for the first time a ready-made turf.
In the 1970s strict rules were put in place on the up-keeping of front yard lawns to keep the status of neighbourhoods up. Till today maintaining a well kept, thick, lush lawn is seen as being a good citizen.
2016 Toronto's pollinator strategy recognizes the importance of pollinator-friendly gardening practices. We have the freedom to rethink our traditional renaissance gardening practices and adapt to new challenges and a new era.
If everyone converts a part of their lawn into a productive habitat, we can reverse the dire trend of tumbling insect populations and collapsing ecosystems.
Todays Implication of Suburban Lawn
Lawns do not contribute to our food web and ecosystems that are the base of all existence.
Population growth reduces natural habitat at an unprecedented pace through urban sprawl and increased agricultural use of land.
According to NASA satellite imaging, lawn already occupies more space in the United States than National Parks do.
There are 6.2 million homes in Canada.
The most commonly used grass is not only short above ground but also has a short root system that fails at the increasingly important task of carbon sequestration.
Lawn is the largest irrigated single crop in North America. Native plants adapted to our area need a lot less water.
Pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides used in huge amounts on lawns run off into our groundwater and evaporate into the air, thus creating an increased risk of
heart disease, cancer, and birth defects.
A modern gas-powered lawnmower emits 11 times more pollutants than a car would in the same amount of runtime. Older ones regularly emit about 42 times the pollutants, being carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.
An incredible amount of gasoline is spilled and runs into our groundwater when refueling.
Lawns rob any place its identity. North York or the Bluffs, Vancouver or Halifax, Los Angeles or Boston all look like a chain store.
The Unnoticed Sustainer of Life
Pollination provides our food and secures the reproduction, thus survival of plants.
As the most efficient converter of plant material into high protein biomass, insects feed birds, mammals, fish, lizards etc. As compared to the meat a cow produces, insects are 300 times more efficient in converting plants into meat.
Insects play a crucial role in the decomposition of dead plants and animals as well as a recycler of nutrients.
Predatory insects can maintain ecological balance in functioning ecosystems.
"We have data showing we're deep into the sixth great extinction. Things are disappearing on a regular basis. And those are the things that run the ecosystem that supports us."
Professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Daleware
The first global scientific research review on insects concludes:
Over 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction. Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are the most affected. The rate of insect extinction is 8 times higher than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The causes of this are habitat loss, chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change.
Global insect population declines by 2.5 % each year. At this rate, all insects will be extinct within 100 years, causing a catastrophic collapse of nature's ecosystems.
Your Call To Action
We all can make a huge difference
by creating pollinator patches and refraining from the use of any chemicals in our gardens.
If more people convert their lawn into a natural habitat, it will lead to bigger and more connected areas. Size matters, bigger areas can sustain denser populations and greater biodiversity.
"Gardeners have become important players in the management of our nation's wildlife. It is now within the power of individual gardeners to do something that we all dream of doing: to make a difference."
Doug Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home
The Bicoloured Agapostemonis is our un(official) bee of Toronto.