Improving ecosystem begins in the backyard


Professor Douglas Tallamy signs copies of his new book after a lecture Friday given as part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s 2011 Joseph and Dorothy Young Memorial Lectures in Horticulture.

Story and photo by Matthew Butts, NewsNetNebraska

Local ecosystems are in jeopardy from development of cities, roads, farmland and even residential lawns, says Douglas Tallamy, a wildlife ecology expert.

“Our challenge is to raise the carrying capacity of our neighborhoods so they can be healthy, functioning ecosystems again,” Tallamy told a crowd of about 80 people at a special lecture on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

Tallamy, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, spoke Friday night as part of UNL’s 2011 Joseph and Dorothy Young Memorial Lectures in Horticulture.

Anyone can meet this challenge right from his or her own backyard, he said. By taking the simple step of introducing plants native to the area, a person can help support hundreds of different types of insects and animals, and, as a result, save their local ecosystem.

“In the field of ecology, there are so few things a single person can do to see a difference. This is one they can,” Tallamy said.

Traditional landscaping eliminates the homes of many creatures because the plants that are planted are typically foreign species and are of no use to the creatures that remain. This is because insects evolved to use specific types of plants.

Without those specific plants, insect populations drop dramatically. When that happens, songbird populations that rely on those insects fall. In turn, populations of predatory birds fall, and so on down the line.

With a little education, anyone can chose the plants best suited for their ecosystem and can prevent this loss of wildlife, Tallamy said.

Tallamy’s message was one that resonated with Carol Bodeen, who came from North Platte to hear the lecture.

“I came because I wanted to know more about introducing native plants,” she said. “It was all really interesting. I had no idea that certain species of plants are better at supporting insects than others.”

To find which plants support the most life, Tallamy suggests visiting

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