By Donna Vanbuecken
Last week it was my turn to make a presentation to this winter’s Hunter Education class. Naturally, I do the session on the importance of supporting wildlife through conservation and preservation.
One of the things I cover in my talk (Study Guide for Wisconsin Hunter Education Safety Certificate Unit 9) is that there are five essential elements that make up a wildlife habitat: food, water, cover, space and arrangement. It has occurred to me that these five elements are also the basis of any good design for natural landscaping.
Food — to provide a healthy diet for wildlife means habitat that supports a variety of plants as well as smaller animal and insect species that serve as food for larger birds and animals.
Water — needs to be readily available, easy to get to and not polluted.
Cover — should provide protection and be suitable for feeding, breeding, roosting, nesting and traveling.
Space — capacity to allow for adequate nourishment, mating and nesting, and disease-control.
Arrangement — close placement of food, water, cover and space to preserve energy while satisfying the daily needs of wildlife. (Add: and the aesthetic and sustainable needs of the owner.)
I then add a sixth need to the discussion: biodiversity. This is a rather big word for 10-12 year olds. It is the contraction of two important words — biological and diversity. The term biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms in a habitat. It is the variety of life: the different plants, animals and micro-organisms, their genes and the ecosystems of which they are a part.
Maintaining biodiversity brings balance to a habitat in order to support wildlife and to provide a sense of place for the owner. Designing to maintain all six of these elements will provide you with a wonderful landscape.
For more information about gardening for “wild life,” read Doug Tallamy’s Gardening for Life.