The world is changing. We’re experiencing climate change, countless species are on the brink of extinction and plastic was found in the Mariana Trench. We’re facing some pretty enormous problems.
WTF is biodiversity (and why should we care)?
Biodiversity is “the variety of plant and animal life in a particular area or habitat” – essentially the variety of life on Earth as a whole. It is extremely important as the survival of one species is inextricably intertwined with the survival of another.
Losing one life form – be it a microscopic bacteria in the soil or a massive elephant – has a ripple effect on the entire environment.
In layman’s terms, this means that if earthworms die out, it would affect the production of beer – catastrophe!
(Read more on biodiversity here).
Think big, start small
A few months ago, a small piece of veld up the road from my house sported some beautiful trees and a host of bird life. Today it boasts nothing more than a line of uniform storage units surrounded by grey paving.
The construction of this eyesore made me extremely sad, but as the saying goes, “you can’t stop progress“. That doesn’t mean we are completely powerless to make a difference. We can start preserving the environment on our immediate doorstep.
Here are 4 fun, easy ways to create biodiversity at home
I’m a complete sucker for birds. A lot of my childhood was spent reading “Robert’s Bird Book” (as you can probably tell, I was definitely not the popular kid at school). I would spend hours studying the pictures, eventually graduating to sketching them out.
Nothing brings life to a garden like bird activity, and attracting them is as easy as chucking out an apple for a Grey Loerie or Crested Barbet.
When we moved into our home, we got the odd “LBJ” (little brown job) and a couple of doves. Yesterday I counted no less than 15 different species flitting around between the shrubs.
I fill up the bird bath every morning and each afternoon I place a cup of seed and a fruit or two on the bird table, watching as the featured critters dig into their buffet.
There are a range of other bird-attracting options, such as sugar feeders for Sunbirds and suet balls (which can result in some real-life Game-of-Thrones-level violence in your garden). You can even provide breeding space through nesting logs.
If you watch the action for long enough, you eventually start recognising specific birds – like the dove with a limp, the Black-eyed Bulbul who does what can only be described as chatter to itself and the Grey Loerie that likes to dip its butt in water and then fall asleep in the sun.
Birds are just hilarious.
Bees are essential to the survival of almost all species on the planet. While they are not the only pollinators, they are by far the most prolific. Without them, most plant species (including edible crops) would die out, causing knock-on extinction for virtually every other form of life. Unfortunately bee populations are declining worldwide, which is obviously a fairly significant reason for concern.
While it’s perhaps not the best idea to build bee hives capable of sustaining Honey Bee colonies on your balcony or in a small back garden, there are a host of other bee species (known as Solitary Bees) that you can help.
Solitary Bees actually form the majority of the overall bee population in South Africa. Most of these bees are docile and stingless. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and, as their name suggests, do not live in a hive, preferring to operate on their own.
Bee Hotels provide these Solitary Bees a place to lay their precious eggs. Hanging them at eye level gives you the opportunity to watch the magic in action, allowing you to investigate tiny nature from up close. You can buy a Bee Hotel, or make your own if you enjoy DIY (it’s basically a block of wood with different sized holes drilled into it…).
South Africans love being in the outdoors and honestly there is very little that can compare to firing up the braai on a summer evening (or winter evening – we’re crazy like that). Pleasant surroundings by way of a couple of pretty plants add to the ambiance, making it all the more enjoyable.
Having plants of varying shape, height and colour in the garden is not only easy on the eye, but increases the biodiversity in your garden by attracting a variety of birds, insects and subterranean creepy-crawlies.
Aloes, for example, will attract cute little Sunbirds. Any flower could be considered bee-friendly, however they are drawn more to blue and purple coloured blooms, so those are a must if you have Bee Hotels!
Of course, plants of the indigenous and water-wise variety are preferable. I recommend them because they are less likely to die and as a trip to the nursery can be financially crippling, keeping plants alive helps to contain your costs.
Too much of one thing can be detrimental. Case in point, Johannesburg was seemingly built on a constantly writhing tectonic plate of ants.
While ants are an integral part of nature (and your kitchen counter, if you live in Jo’burg), the whole point of ensuring biodiversity in your garden is to have things other than ants crawling around (and with any luck, eating the f*&@ing ants in the process).
The easiest way to do this is a compost heap (or box, which requires less work). Not only is it a great way to get some crawlies coming your way, but it helps cut down on your kitchen waste too!
Fruit, vegetables (which have probably suffered a terrible death in the bottom drawer of your fridge), teabags, coffee grinds and garden waste like grass clippings can all go in. Decomposition attracts a whole load of microscopic and multi-legged creepies and the resultant compost can then be used to keep your plants happy… which in turn attracts the birds, bees and braai guests!
“It’s up to us to take small actions that contribute to the greater good of all living things.“– Me (and in all likelihood a lot of other very important and knowledgeable people)
It’s the circle of life in full HD right outside your window. If we all strove to make our immediate environment better for other creatures, it’d add up to bigger change in no time!
*All photos were taken of things in my own, rather small, back garden.
If you’d like to learn more about wildlife, nature, photography and conservation, head on over to my good mate at Barking Wild. All of these topics will be covered in detail in upcoming weeks, so be sure to subscribe!