By Pamela Sleightholm
Surrounded by subdivisions, condos, highways and shopping malls – we can sometimes forget that we are a part of a living natural ecosystem. Sunday, May 22 was the International Day for Biological Diversity. Let this inspire you to take a moment to reflect on this city’s biodiversity – the plants, insects and animals that we need for the survival of our ecosystem.
Biodiversity is a term used to describe having a variety of genes, species and ecosystems. Biodiverse groups are much more resilient to stresses like extreme weather, natural disaster, even climate change. These genes, species and ecosystems are interconnected – what impacts one will affect the whole network, but together they can put up a strong front to major change.
Blooming Boulevards aims to improve Mississauga’s biodiversity in several ways.
1. Improve genetic diversity by providing safe corridors
In Mississauga, we have green spaces that are siloed from one another. One goal of Blooming Boulevards is to connect those large wild spaces with smaller habitat gardens so pollinating insects can connect with other groups, reproduce and improve their own genetic diversity.
See where Blooming Boulevards gardens are located throughout the city on this map.
2. Plant a variety of native plant species to support a diversity of insects
Insects are the very foundation of our ecosystem’s food web. They provide pollination services for our own fruits, vegetables and other flowering plants. But they’re also a food source for baby birds, amphibians, fish and reptiles that all play a role in the ecosystem. Without insects, there couldn’t possibly be enough food. And since so many insects depend on specific plants, without those native plants, there couldn’t possibly be enough insects.
3. Promote plants that improve the ecosystem services required by all living things
Our ecosystem provides many services that we need for a safe and healthy city. Water filtration and absorption, decomposition of organic waste, pollination and erosion prevention are all incredibly valuable services that our ecosystem does for free.
Having evolved in this zone, native plants play an essential role in many ecosystem services that improve the wellbeing of all living things. They are deep-rooted to provide stability and structure to soil, withstand drought and absorb water. They’re also important for soil microbes involved in decomposition to cycle nutrients back to the environment. They provide shelter and food for all creatures, including humans. All of these factors play a role in our ecosystem, supporting a diverse network of organisms that also play a role in ecosystem services themselves.
Planting native plants does so much more than creating a pretty pollinator garden, they’re essential to the functioning of our entire ecosystem, food supply and biodiversity. All important factors as we approach the realities of a changing climate.
It may not seem that we can do much with our limited spaces, but adding native plants to our gardens or balconies can pack a punch. This spring, add a few more native plants to your space!
Habitat Assessment Guide for Pollinators in Yards, Gardens, and Parks