I wonder at times if the suburban area in which I live is more biodiverse today, or less so, relative to the farmland it once was. Has the onslaught of development left our natural green infrastructure – that we depend on for clear water, clean air, and healthy soils – better or worse off than 50 or 100 years ago? Yes habitats have been reshaped a great deal in the last 500 years, but is it possible that we are doing a better job today than our forebears did from the time of colonization up to the suburbanization of America?
This question came up again last night as Kathy and I walked around the neighborhood after dark listening to the million voices of frogs bellowing from the wetlands and vernal ponds in the preserved open spaces along the dendritic streams that dissect suburbia. We have many more vegetated buffers along streams throughout the mid-Atlantic states that existed 50 years ago. When I was a kid in the fifties many streams were not fenced off and the cows wallowed in the streams. Stream banks were sites of significant erosion and flash flooding. We have restored significant lacustrine ecosystems throughout much of this country.
I get a thrill every spring when I hear my amphibious friends calling out their mating songs from all the bogs and ponds that line these greenways. I appreciate the fact that we have created these greenways for flood control, sediment control, nutrient management, water quality, air quality, and recreation. I also appreciate that these vegetated areas have brought back pileated woodpeckers, beaver, mink, muskrat, deer and a host of other birds, mammals, and amphibians.
How each of us manage our individual backyards is also playing a large part in the re-establishment of habitats for a wide array of species. Planting native gardens, meadows, trees and shrubs is supporting the restoration and preservation of a wide number of birds and insects. Our backyards may be our last best hope for the preservation of species on the planet.
So go out tonight and enjoy the chorus. My friend Sue Muller of the Howard County, MD Department of Rec and Parks says that Spring Peepers are calling (peeping) loudly right now, sometimes in deafening choruses. Wood Frogs are also active if you can hear them under the roar of Peepers. American Toads should start calling (long trills) any day now. For further information visit https://www.aza.org/become-a-frogwatch-volunteer/. You can also go to the North American Amphibian Monitoring site https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/naamp/index.cfm to get descriptions of the calls.
Take-a-way: I encourage you to support all efforts to create, restore, and manage our green infrastructure network that winds through all of our urban, suburban, and rural areas. Let’s replace grass wherever we can with native meadows, gardens, and forests. And yes, maybe we can re-establish a healthy balance between humans and other life forms on this planet.