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Bringing Back Biodiversity

Every gardener can be a guardian, every garden a sanctuary, and every farm a forest.


As the climate warms and development surrounds the few remaining wild places, our gardens and farms are increasingly a vital refuge for the diverse forms of life who inhabit eastern North America.


Whether you have a shady backyard in the city or a hundred acre farm, there are many simple ways to improve your local ecosystem. The planting choices we make are more important today than ever before. You have the power to fight climate change in any growing space, and create an elegant garden in the process.

 

 
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Assisted Migration

Every Gardener a Guardian

Current high-emissions projections show the heat zone of New York City and Philadelphia becoming closer to that of Florida by 2050, with 90-120 days over 86°F each year. Very few trees in the mid-Atlantic or Northeast are capable of surviving the temperatures and extreme weather events that could be coming in just a few decades.  Additionally, most native trees would have to migrate over 10 times faster than they are able to in order to keep pace with climate change.

If plants cannot reach the areas where they will be able to survive in 30 years, it is vital for us to assist in their migration. Many species that are unique to the Southeast face extinction if we cannot give them a home far north of their traditional range. Additionally, many species in the Northeast will disappear - leaving major gaps in northern forests that southern plants will need to occupy.

But there’s hope: every gardener can participate in the project of Assisted Migration, and provide a refuge for plants that need our help. Anyone who grows and loves plants can be a guardian for biodiversity, and help to ensure the future of our forests.

Climate Refugia

Every Garden a Sanctuary

When the climate cooled and mile-thick glaciers covered much of North America 20,000 years ago, the plants and animals native to our continent migrated far south of the ice to survive in 'refugia' - pockets of protected biodiversity. Now with the climate warming, plants and animals will once again require refugia, but this time far to the north of their current native ranges. Gardens are ideal 'climate refugia' - protected and cared for by plant lovers, and able to support hotter-climate plants. Particularly when located in cities, gardens can be repositories for southern plants that will be needed in a few decades.

As landscapes that are defined by high rates of pollution and habitat fragmentation, degraded ecosystems, increased carbon dioxide levels, and hotter temperatures (the 'urban heat island effect'), cities already have the conditions projected to exist regionally in 20 years. By looking at how present urban ecosystems function - and which plants are well adapted to their challenging conditions - we can gain a better understanding of how other forests in our region might respond to climate change and future development.  Furthermore, if we want to find which plants will perform well in a drastically hotter near-future climate, cities are the ideal testing ground. Our own backyards and gardens can be research stations today for the plants that will define our landscapes in 2050 and beyond.

 

Tree Crops

Every Farm a Forest

Industrial agriculture is one of the primary drivers of habitat destruction around the world. Agroforestry (also called 'permaculture' and 'forest gardening') offers a variety of solutions by demonstrating how to grow food in ways that can be truly regenerative of the environment.

Although many of the vast tracts of forest that once dominated eastern North America have now been replaced with corn fields and commodity crops, every gardener pulling woody weeds out of their beds knows that our landscape will revert to forest if left alone. Instead of fighting it with heavy machinery and herbicides, we can take advantage of that fact by farming with trees. We can create entire forests of food, fodder, and medicinals that build soils and provide habitat for native fauna.

These ideas are not new. Indigenous peoples around the globe - particularly in eastern North America - have been using these methods for thousands of years with incredible success. Agroforestry asks us to learn from these age-old ideas in order to help mitigate the problems we face today.