Review: nature’s best hope

I’ve just finished reading Douglas W. Tallamy’s Nature’s Best Hope, and I closed the book feeling inspired and motivated to walk my property and make a plan for adding a large variety of natives to support our local ecosystem. My general feeling is that, if a book leaves you wanting to do something, do more, make an impact, that is a sure sign of a good book!

Tallamy begins by discussing conservation efforts in this country, how they started and what they’ve accomplished. But he then points out that though it has helped preserve natural space, and protect threatened species, it isn’t enough. And more to the point, it can’t be enough.

He points out that “we cling to the notion that nature should be saved where nature remains, not where humans work, live, farm or play” and there is “the nearly universal belief that people are here and nature is somewhere else.” (p.20)

Tallamy then presents his vision of what he calls Homegrown National Park. If homeowners and communities would return some of their property to native plants, local ecosysytems could recover. There would be a significant number of acreage across the country that would together restore ecosystem and habitat for countless species of insects, mammals, reptiles, birds and more.

Tallamy makes the case for removing invasive, non-native plants and replacing with natives that are specific for our particular ecosystems. He describes how if we plant to meet the needs of specialists (those who only use a specific species of host plant, such as the monarch butterfly), we will also meet the needs of generalist species (those who are not so particular in their food choices).

The author is honest in his assessment that this conservation effort can and will require effort on our part, but that it is important and necessary. He also gives encouragement that it can be done, even in unlikely locations such as urban areas.

He recounts a story about a homeowner in Chicago who, over several years added trees and plants to her small urban backyard, and had seen increasing numbers of bird and butterfly species visit her yard. In another example, he describes The High Line, an old rail line in New York City that runs above the city streets, and which has been refurbished as a pedestrian walkway, with natives planted on either side. Tallamy describes his surprise when he spots four different native bee species that have returned to the city as a result.

This book follows Tallamy’s earlier publication of Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. I have not read this book yet but have it on order. I’m looking forward to taking his advice to heart and making a difference in my own yard.

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