Return To Landscapes 5 part series on the Habitats of Lambton County.
Wikipedia defines habitat as “an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by species of animals, plants and other types of organisms. It’s the natural environment in which a living organism lives”. Generally, people tend to think of habitats as wild places where wild things live and that is the focus of this article.
We still have good examples of a variety of natural habitats in Lambton County including woodlands, savannahs, prairies, wetlands and coastal dunes/beaches. These are generalized categories, not broken down to more specific vegetative communities.
As stated above, we “still have good examples of a variety of habitats” but we have lost the vast majority of them. We live in one of the most altered and developed areas of the world (read “the Once and Future Great lakes” by John Riley). Today, in southwestern Ontario, we have lost 85% to 95% of our woodlands, 75% of our wetlands, 99% of our prairies and 99% of our savannahs. That is too much habitat loss for a number of reasons. Environment Canada, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Regional Conservation Authorities recommend a minimum 30% natural cover of habitats to protect species and provide us with a healthy natural environment. And those are government agency’s recommendations, which often tend to reflect only minimum standards. In the opinion of scientists including E.O. Wilson and James Lovelock, 50% is a more realistic figure.
There are a number of reasons why habitats are important to us. They filter drinking water, control floods, purify air, support wildlife, and provide us with food and building materials, to name just a few. These are all important environmental services that are critical to all of life. To quote E. O. Wilson “Humanity is a biological species, living in a biological environment, because like all species, we are exquisitely adapted in everything, to that particular environment in which we live. The Earth is our home. Unless we preserve the rest of life, we will be endangering ourselves by destroying the home in which we evolved, on which we completely depend”.
But what keeps habitats healthy and surviving? Native plants. They are the foundation of healthy habitats and ecosystems and biodiversity is the insurance policy. The more diverse, the more viable the habitat. Also the larger the size/area the more viable the habitat. Small and fragmented is the road to disaster. The task before us now is to protect, restore and connect habitats. Aldo Leopold’s first rule of conservation is “keep all the pieces”. We have not done a very good job of that but we do have a “wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us” (E. O. Wilson) to work with.
Return the Landscape
Tall Grass Prairie, Wetlands, The Carolinian Forest, The Rare Oak Savannahs & Coastal Dunes & Beaches