Public urged to grow native plants

MICHELE BLACK/GREAT BACKYARD BIRD COUNT/PHOTOSome beloved backyard birds, like the Carolina Chickadee, require areas planted with at least 70 percent native species to maintain their populations.

NEW YORK -- As gardeners across the country prepare for spring, the National Audubon Society is encouraging them to add native plants to their landscaping, buoyed by a bipartisan resolution in the U.S. Senate that declares April 2021 as National Native Plant Month.

Introduced by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the resolution passed by unanimous consent on March 25.

CHALLENGING TIMES

"This resolution recognizes the benefits of native plants for people, birds and other wildlife" John Rowden, senior director for Bird-Friendly Communities at the National Audubon Society, said.

"We thank Senators Portman and Hirono for introducing this resolution and the Senate for passing it. From a changing climate to habitat loss, birds face a myriad of challenges to find natural spaces.

"Native plants provide shelter and food for birds, and because they are adapted to local conditions don't require pesticides or synthetic fertilizer and need less watering. Planting natives, wherever you are, helps the environment and provides critical resources for birds as we approach nesting season."

NESTING 'DESERTS'

Most urban parks, yards and other green spaces are dominated by non-native species like ginkgoes, London plane trees and other popular imports.

These plantings often require extra water in drier climates or the use of pesticides or other types of additional care in general. Unlike native plant species, which evolved with North American birds over millions of years, exotic plants create food and nesting "deserts," where birds can't find appropriate food sources or nesting sites.

Some beloved backyard birds, like the Carolina Chickadee, require areas planted with at least 70 percent native species to maintain their populations.

DROPPING BIRD POPULATIONS

The National Audubon Society, through its Plants for Birds program, maintains a Native Plant Database to link gardeners with appropriate natives to plant in their area and has partnered with Bower & Branch to make some of those area-appropriate, bird-friendly plants available in many parts of the country.

Maintaining appropriately planted green space is an important part of "30 x 30," an international effort to maintain biodiversity and create resilience against climate change. 30 x 30 has been named as a priority by the Biden administration and recognized in an executive order by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Multiple studies show a steep decline in bird populations that depend on them.

The number of birds in North America has dropped by one-third — a billion individual birds — over the past 50 years, likely due in large part to loss of suitable habitat.

At the same time, Audubon research shows that remaining birds face an uncertain future as the continent warms.

For more information, go to: www.audubon.org

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