Episode 13

March 08, 2024


Becoming Nature's Best Hope

Hosted by

International Wildlife Coexistence Network Josh Adler
Becoming Nature's Best Hope
For the Wild Ones
Becoming Nature's Best Hope

Mar 08 2024 | 00:41:49


Show Notes

Find out where some of nature's most powerful allies are hiding and how to help them restore our world.



Dr. Douglas Tallamy - author of Nature's Best Hope and Founder of Homegrown National Park


Donate to IWCN in April and we'll send you native seeds for your garden!


Music Credits:

For the Wild Ones Theme by Priya Darshini

Equivocal and Quintessence Part III_Shamanic Dream by Jon Shuemaker


View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

 The message in the book, of course, is incredibly important to help our listeners and hopefully new listeners understand better how they can be nature's best hope. Yeah, they are nature's best whether they act like it or not. They are. Yeah, that's key, right? All of this conservation effort; it has to do with human attitudes and behavioral change. The sociological challenge is, we know science, whether or not we do it is up to us. That requires a culture change, requires a lot of education. It's not that very many people are against it. They just don't have a clue that it's their responsibility. A lot of people don't have a clue that it's even necessary. Why is it necessary? What, what kind of bird and insect losses are we seeing? Why, why is it necessary for us to look at our behaviors and try to make some big changes? It's really a two-part question. We are products of nature. We are totally dependent on the life support that healthy ecosystems provide. We call them ecosystem services. No matter where you live, particularly if you live in a city where you feel like you don't need any nature at all, you are totally dependent on the life support that an ecosystem somewhere is providing you. Well, it's biodiversity that runs those ecosystems. And the more species you have in an ecosystem, the more productive it is. And the more stable it is, and as you take species away becomes less and less productive and less stable. And then all of a sudden, you don't have enough ecosystem services for our giant 8 billion people population, which is expanding every day. So, every day we need more ecosystem services yet. We are degrading our ecosystems. At the same rate we're increasing our population. So, that obviously is not a sustainable interaction. And there's all kinds of things that are attached to that. We've always had this idea that humans in nature cannot coexist, that humans are here in nature someplace else. So, it doesn't matter what we do, where we are, because nature someplace else. So even if we love nature, it's someplace else. And we go visit it. There is no someplace else. You know, humans are everywhere now. We do have parks. We do have preserves, and they're doing the best they can, but we are in the sixth great extinction event the planet has ever experienced, which means it's certainly not good enough. So now we have to start practicing conservation outside of parks and preserves. That's where we live, where we work, where we farm, where we play. It's private property, and that makes private property owners the hope and future of conservation. If we all practice conservation on the little piece of the earth that we own, or that we can manipulate in some way. We really can turn this around. Well, when I say we all, I mean, this is everybody's responsibility because everybody requires those life support services. This is not just for ecologists or conservation biologists. It's for everybody on the planet. If you require it, you have a responsibility to help sustaining it. So that's why we need it. And, what's happening to it? We've lost 3 billion breeding birds in North America in the last 50 years. We've got global insect decline. The UN says we're going to lose a million species to extinction in the next 20 years. Two thirds of the earth's plant communities are in trouble. There's anywhere you look, there's just terrible statistics about the fate of our fellow earthlings because we're taking the resources they need and pushing them aside. You can push them right off the planet, but that is the end of us. E. O. Wilson told us decades ago that insects are the little things that run the world. If we lose our insects, we're done. Well, we've already lost more than 40, 45, 45 percent of them. So, we haven't heeded these messages yet. There's more and more people yelling and screaming, crying, that this is something we have to do. I shouldn't say we haven't here, I've been talking about this for 20 years and the needle is moving. People are starting to respond. It's mostly that they didn't know. It's not that they didn't want to respond. They didn't know that they, if they worried about the planet's problems, felt helpless, hopeless, powerless. What can one person do? But single people can make a difference. I've seen that right on our property at home here, which is what encourages me. Nature is really resilient. Nature's working with us here. If we give it a chance, she can repair herself and we're not going to save all the species, but we can save a lot of them. And again, these functioning ecosystems. It's one of the most hopeful, catalysts for me in the conservation conversation is the responsiveness and resilience of natural ecosystems in the living world. Give them a chance and they come back, which is really exciting. Where do you look for that source of hope? Where do you see the resilience in action? There're examples all over the place. There's a famous grassland now in the Natcheza grasslands in Northern Illinois. It used to be a cornfield. Now it's got over 760 plant species in it. 160 species of birds are using it. It's a diverse prairie ecosystem that was totally reconstructed by us. We stopped farming it. Now it's not as diverse as it would have been if we had never touched it. But it is a thriving ecosystem now. And then the prediction is that the diversity will increase over time. That's just one example. And there are examples all over the place where people are putting it back. I look at my own property, it's 10 acres in Southeast Pennsylvania. It also was farmed. It was farmed for 300 years. And the last thing it did was mow it for hay. So, there was very little here. We put the plants back. We use the, the process, what Rick Dart calls. addition by subtraction. We don't plant very much. We just remove the invasives we don't want, and nature puts the rest back. The blue jays bring in seeds, the squirrels bring in seeds, wind brings in seeds. There's a seed bank there even after 300 years. My measure of diversity, of the success of our restoration is the number of breeding birds we have there and the number of moth species that make the caterpillars that those breeding birds use to reproduce. So, I've been taking a picture of every moth I could find on our property for the last six years, and I'm up to 1, 259 species, and I'm not through, I added 60 more species last year, and we've got 62 species of birds that have bred on our property. Some people say, well, it took a long time. No, it didn't. I mean, we've been here 23 years, but it started to repair itself almost immediately. I'd have to look back. See where we were 10 years ago, but, ecologically, that's a blink of an eye and people might think we spent a fortune. I planted almost everything I did plant as a seed, particularly the oak trees, which are really driving the ecosystem here. I'm going to pick up an acorn off the ground and plant it and it's cost free. So, it can be done. It can be done. When you say that. And even after the land had been cleared and farmed for generations, there was a seed bank there. What do you mean by that? Well, originally there were native plants there, and I don't know the whole history of the property. I know that at one point there were cattle on it, but I'm sure they had crops, and I'm sure they were growing the feed for the cattle. Whatever the farming activities were it did not destroy the remnants of the native plants that were here. So, for example, we've got a terrible deer problem; overabundance of white tail deer. So, there are certain areas where we've, we fence them out. They're not very big, but, where the deer can't eat everything as soon as it pops up. And right away, a couple of orchids popped up now. Now they have been in the soil, maybe underneath the cow's feet and under the plow for hundreds of years, so they're back. We have a low wet area, which I'm sure they couldn't farm, but it's been a great source of plants that survived our interventions. There was one place. Where they would move all the rocks from the fields and throw them. So, it's this giant rock pile. There's a lot of plants that have come up in that rock pile. They're not farming that either. So little nooks and crannies that have preserved some of the diversity that was here. I'm sure it's not, all the diversity that was here. They've shown seeds of black cherry trees. Every time they dig a new cellar in Manhattan, they're putting in a new building. They'll uncover a seed bank, and those seeds will germinate. They're two or three hundred years old, been buried there. So, seeds can live in the soil a long, long time. As a matter of fact, there's seeds from the, the pyramids in Egypt that have germinated. Now, what is that? Two, three thousand years? That's incredible. I'm aware that people collect rare and endangered seeds and are bringing them back and trying to redistribute them. People like, Diana Beresford Kroger, who has gone all over the world to find seeds for her garden and, her orchards. One thing I love about your approach is, you're recasting human interaction, human presence on the landscape. It's easy for us to get caught up and disillusioned, disempowered, seeing ourselves as the villains in this narrative, but it seems like we can also be the heroes if we choose to be if we take different kinds of action. Did you have a kind of dark night of the soul or turning point in your own perception about your ability to take action? That's a great question. I had never thought of it that way. I would say I never doubted that I could plant a plant and the things would come use it. I'm an entomologist. So, I view the world from the viewpoint of insects, which are tiny little things. I'm not trying to save elephants on our property. That would be a bigger challenge. Sounds like you could use some predators though with the deer problem. Yeah, we have a few coyotes, not enough, not enough, but yeah. But I know that if I plant an oak tree, I know that the insects that use that oak, and it's a lot of them, will start to colonize that oak very shortly. I never doubted that. I had no idea how many species were making a living here and how many species could colonize and how quickly they could do it. We had a seminar at the university of Delaware years ago, a guy from Georgia came and said, he's been collecting moths at lights for a long time, 30 years or something. And he's up to a thousand species. I said, wow, that's, that's crazy. Well, I'm up to 1, 259 species now and it's a much shorter period of time. So, who knows how high it's going to go? There are 12, 000 species of lepidoptera in this country. What's interesting to me is that Pennsylvania is 29. 4 million acres in size. We've got 10 acres. So, it's a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the size of the state. And we've got 48 percent of all the moths that are recorded in the state on that little, teeny sliver. So, things like that have surprised me. Every time a new bird nests in our yard, we noted it's a happy event and how much diversity will accumulate here is, I don't know. I don't know. What's interesting is, I've gone through two neighbors on one side. The first neighbor had 10 acres of lawn. And the more manicured it was, the happier he was. He had 32 Bradford pear trees, which are highly invasive. He was the opposite of biodiversity. Well, he moved, and he sold the property to a young family who decided they didn't want to mow 10 acres of lawn. And they asked me, "I know anybody who could put this back together again?" I said, well, actually I do. So, they have now put. At least eight of those acres into meadow, which expands the functionality of my ten acres, almost doubles it. And it'll be interesting now to see what additional things, are coming to this bigger landmass, over the next few years, because their meadow's only two years old at this point, That's exciting. And the community effect, the socialization of restoration activities is so powerful. We're going to talk about the homegrown national park soon, but I want to parse. One aspect of your work, which is very focused on restoring native species. I know in conservation, writ large, there is a wider discussion around these terms and understanding of invasive species and native species. There is an understanding in some conservation circles that invasive species are filling a missing niche. I wish that were true. Plants do do a lot of things. They sequester carbon, they photosynthesize, they can manage the watershed, in my view, in terms of running the world. The most important thing they do is capture energy from the sun and through that photosynthesis, turning it into simple sugars and carbohydrates. Which is the food that supports just about all the animals on the planet. That's an important niche. And that's the niche that nonnative plants do not fulfill. And that's where host plant specialization comes in. It's where the interaction between insects and plants comes in. Most of our vertebrate animals do not eat plants directly. They eat something else that ate plants. That's almost always an invertebrate, almost always an insect, and typically a caterpillar. Caterpillars are transferring more energy from plants to other animals than any other type of plant eater. So, when you have a plant that does not support caterpillars, I can name them off the bat, almost all of our invasive plants support almost nothing. And many of our nonnatives, as not all nonnatives are invasive, but they are here without having the opportunity for our insects to adapt to them. And that is many thousands and thousands and thousands of generation process. It is not going to happen in anybody's lifetime. So, they're here contributing nothing to that food web. And that's why these invasive plants are so devastating. And that's why it drives me crazy when somebody says, is that filling a niche? What niche is that? Now they do flower and some of our generalist pollinators will use that for the week that they're in flower. I hear all the time, Privet is wonderful for honeybees. For a week. And its honeybees, which aren't native either. In the meantime, Privet has pushed native plants out of millions of acres, and the rest of the 52 weeks it's not in bloom. The natives are gone and they're not blooming at all. So, what about our 4, 000 species of native bees? What are they going to forage on? A private is not a net plus for pollinators, it is a net minus big time and so are all the rest of those invasives. The downside of that reality then is it creates this whole other layer and facet to the ecological crises because We have so much invasive species presence throughout our landscapes, due to colonization, and the agricultural practices that have followed. So, it creates a whole other level of intervention that might not be necessary to get those native plant and insect species going again. That's putting it mildly. The invasive species problem has made conservation orders of magnitude harder than it would have been before we brought all these plants over. We could have simply left it alone and succession would have rebuilt the ecosystem that's appropriate there no longer. When people say we are, we are now gardening the world, we really are. If we don't manage it, it ends up being a tangle of, of Asian vines that pull down our native trees. At least in the East Coast here, a typical quote natural area is about a third nonnative plants invasives that are escapees from our garden. People say, well, the horticultural trade didn't know what they were doing. Yeah. Okay. But boy, what a hammer to the conservation, necessities that, we now have is really hard. It's not impossible. What I didn't tell you about our property is that when you mow for hay in Southeast Pennsylvania, you're really mowing the root stocks of multi flora rose and Oriental bittersweet and Japanese honeysuckle and bush honeysuckle and autumn olive. And when you stop mowing, that's what comes back. So, when we actually moved in, we had 10 acres of just this jungle of asian vines and plants. Very few natives there at all. So, step one was to get that under control. And its step one every single year because, you know, the neighbors for the most part haven't gotten under control. So, we still have a seed rain and an existing seed bank of those guys that come up regularly. and it has to be managed. It's so much more labor than it would have been if we simply said, well, we're going to stop farming and it will repair itself. Cause it would have. That's the way it used to work. So yeah, that's kind of a bitter pill to swallow. And what drives me crazy is we're still selling them in our nurseries. it's true. I want to keep building the conversation around. This potential for coexistence. Why is it the only viable option for us at this point? Well, we've tried not coexisting and it's not working. We are in this, it's a great extinction event. I think we have demonstrated very clearly over the past 2000 years. We're not good at coexisting. We've demonstrated that not coexisting is not the answer we continue to expand our human footprint and diminish the functionality of the ecosystems that we depend on at a regular pace as if we could do that forever. in my view, the only path forward is to coexist is to learn how to have nature thrive and human dominated landscapes. What I am convinced of at this point is that it is so much easier than we think. It is really about plant choice. So right now, we've got 44 million acres of lawn, just in the U S. That's an area bigger than all of New England. That's 44 million acres dedicated to an ecological deadscape. That is not necessary. That is easy to turn around. You simply put the plants back in those spaces, or at least I just talk about cutting that area in half. And people say, oh, the kids won't be able to play baseball. I'm not talking about taking away the baseball fields. I'm talking about the average yard where the kids aren't playing baseball anyway. And reducing the area that's in lawn. Putting the trees back where they belong. Putting beds under those trees. That's what shrinks the lawn. Using lawn as a cue for care so that you're you show your neighbors. You're still part of the culture. You understand it's going to be manicured and you're not going to reduce the property value. That's what people are really worried about. But we are going to have more plants. In our landscapes, we're going to have xeriscaping where it, where it's necessary, not lawn that needs to be watered five times a day with water that we don't have. That is a status symbol, which can be changed. It's true. It was a cultural imperative to have these lawns that need all this care and all this water. Now we have a huge water crisis, particularly out in the Western landscape. Step one is reducing the area lawn, but step two is choosing the right plants when you restore that property. We've gone all over the world. We thought that plants are just decorations. So, we've chosen the prettiest plants from all over the world. And I understand that if plants were just decorations, they have very important ecological roles and that comes first. So, the real horticultural challenge now is designing landscapes that are pretty, but also ecologically functional. And that's not going to happen unless they're dominated by the powerful native plants. I call them Keystone plants that are supporting those caterpillars in the food web. If you can't support a breeding chickadee in your yard, you've got a failed food web, and I know it takes a lot of caterpillars to do that, but that's a bird that's a third of an ounce. So, we better find out how to produce. enough caterpillars to feed a bird that's four pennies worth of bird. we can do that. That's the thing. I've already done it. I mean, it's, it's easy to do, but it doesn't mean you can't have your crepe myrtle. It doesn't mean you can't have your ginkgo. It does mean that 82 percent of the plants in your property cannot be from Asia. And that's the average for a typical suburban yard these days. So, can we turn it around? Of course we can. It's just a matter of changing our priorities. Which are some of the most powerful Native plants to integrate into your yard or your lawn? Well, that somewhat depends on where you are now, as you move farther and farther North, well into Canada, the conifers do take over the furs, are more and more important. Willows become the number one Keystone plant in terms of supporting the life around them. As you move down into the U S 84 percent of the counties in which oaks occur, they are the number one. Keystone plant. So over most of the country, oaks are number one, willows are still way up there. They're usually number two or number three along with native prunus. So, black cherry and pinjerry, birches very high, it's the plants that ought to be there. The ones that are the most important. They're not mystery plants, but for example, where I live, if back in the thirties, a lot of the farmland was abandoned and, what came in were tulip trees, tulip poplars. Liriodendron. It's a great tree. It's the tallest, straightest tree in the forest. But only 21 species of caterpillars use it. Compared to an oak in my area, 557 species use it. So, there are huge differences in the productivity of, just our native plants. And then when you throw in the nonnatives, just a handful, either zero or a few will use those. So, you can find out what the best plants are, where you live. It's a tool that's on the National Wildlife Federation website called Native Plant Finder. So, the old we don't know what to plant excuse that's just an excuse. These days. We do know what to play. We know what the most important plants are. And it's just a matter of using them. It's why we need researchers academic work and this is how it becomes accessible and useful for people. The applications If it doesn't move to the public. You're right. It's it's useless. Well, the knowledge base is always important for decision makers, for policy makers, for that top level of activity and management as well. But your work is doing both, you're doing bottom up and top down, management. And there's also a lot in your work that speaks to people who are living where. There's way more people than seemingly, wildlife or natural landscapes. What kind of recommendations do you make for people in urban areas who want to increase the food web or the trophic connectivity structures, in those spaces? Well, there's no doubt, it's a bigger challenge in a city where the default landscape is cement, but 82 percent of us. Live in what's defined as urban areas, which is a density thing. It doesn't mean everything's cement, but it doesn't mean there's nothing you can do. We haven't talked about Homegrown National Park yet, but on our website, homegrownnationalpark.org there is a section about container gardening, and it's specifically designed for people who only have a patio, or they only have a balcony in an apartment complex. What native plants do well in containers that would help, help pollinators, that would help migrating monarchs? and, Which ones are appropriate for your eco-region. So that's a great resource for people. They just go there and say, okay, I can put this plant in that pot in this area of the country. And these are the insects that will be able to use it. Our pollinators are highly mobile. You put plants up on the rooftop of a five-story building, they will find it. I always tell people to think of their apartment complex as a big rock outcrop. Now, if you actually are hiking and you find a rock outcrop, there are plants growing in the nooks and crannies here and there. That's what your balcony is. It's a nook and it's a cranny and you put plants there and the animals that need it will find it. If everybody adopted the trees on their, their apartment grounds. We could turn them into a much more productive scenario right now. It's long right up to the tree. It's probably the wrong species of tree. but we don't want to increase the work for the people that manage that property. We actually want to decrease the work. And if you do that, they'll say, great, do it. And then, even though you're in the middle of a city, our migrating birds migrate right through cities. And they fly into the windows at night when we leave the lights on, but they stop during their migration to eat. What are they eating? Particularly in the spring, they're eating the caterpillars on these trees. There are no berries and seeds in the spring and the birds that are migrating are all insectivores anyway. So, plant the plants that are going to create the caterpillars that can fuel the migration, even though you live in the middle of a city, it may not be enough space for a bird to breed in, but they're passing through and they use it two times a year coming and going. It feels like there are a lot of opportunities living in New York city for well over a decade. The legacy of community gardens there is very strong, which continues to provide little outcroppings of green zones. But also, there's such a big movement for rooftops, not only farming, but garden spaces that could be utilized in a way that's advantageous for pollinators, for birds, nesting zones, things like that. Like you're saying, the skin could be put onto the skeleton of the city. The green skin, the foliage skin could be kind of resurrected or built in a way that actually adds connectivity. Because once that connectivity is in place, then the migratory processes can occur in a real way. They're happening, but maybe in this kind of degraded, paltry way. Yeah, I saw a statistic the other day. I can't remember it exactly, but it was looking at the percentage of the world's migrants that are in trouble. It's almost all of them because they have to migrate. Through different countries, migration has always been the most dangerous thing they did, but it's, it's tough now with, with our human interventions. But it reminds me of another thing that you can do as a city dweller. You can volunteer. The parks and preserves that are in and around Manhattan or any of the other cities, they all have parks and preserves, and they're all underfunded, and they're all understaffed, and they love their volunteers. They depend on them. So, it's a way of directly being involved with actually more natural areas. So, we've discussed how, how nature can thrive in human dominated landscapes. And it is possible. How is it that we know which species contribute the most to ecosystem function? That's a good question. And of course, you have to define what you mean by contribute. We have used caterpillars as the index of productivity because they are transferring more energy from that plant to other organisms than any other type of plant eater. It's not the only index. You could look at the number of pollinators that use it, the number of specialist pollinators. We've looked at caterpillars and we get the data from host plant records over the last hundred years. So, particularly the older records, a naturalist is out there and says, well, I found the white blotched heterocampa eating white oak. And he, he records it and it's published. And we have these host records from all over the country, actually from all over the world. We're working on world lists now. And then you add them all up. The ones with the most records are the ones that are supporting the most species. It's the best we can do. You don't go out and just start collecting caterpillars. That would take you many lifetimes. But people have done that for us. That's what the literature is for. So, most of these records have been accumulated by my research assistant, Kimberly Shropshire, who sits in front of a computer, and she says she adds one species of Lepidoptera to the list about once every minute and a half. So, for her world list. Where is she? About a hundred, 000 species now that she has looked at through the literature. There's a lot more. She's working on it. She's in South America now working on it. That's how we do it. So, it really takes field collection of data by hand on the ground. This is not work that can really be done remotely with satellites or, or drones, even let's say. satellites are getting better. LiDAR, lighting systems are getting better at actually picking out what a, a plant community looks like. So, what is this tree? What, what does this layer look like? It's not perfect, but they're much better than they were. Drones, I mean, you really can know what the species of tree is if you get the drone and it can go up and maybe inspect certain leaves, but that's a lot harder than it seems. And then you've only looked at one tree. And remember during the day, which is when you'd have to do this, caterpillars are hiding. If they're out in the open, the bird picks them off right away, the birds, each individual bird's getting hundreds of caterpillars a day. So, they are very good at hiding. A lot of them will crawl right off the tree during the day and back up at night, or they're blending in with the leaves, or they're blending in with the bark. I hear it all the time. I go out and look at my planet, can't find any caterpillars, well go out at night when they're not hiding and they're actually out eating, with your flashlight and all of a sudden there's a whole lot more caterpillars there than you thought there were. I know that the techno people want it all to be technology and a lot of what they've come up with has helped a lot, but there's really no replacing the boots on the ground. Then, the personal observations, at least not yet. Perhaps there's economic hope and incentive in the opportunity for future conservation services, creating jobs, because we're going to need to do a lot more ecosystem monitoring if we want to know what's going on the ground. Now I want to sidebar here. A hundred caterpillars a day. That's a lot. Hundreds, hundreds, hundreds. Hundreds of caterpillars a day just for one fledgling, or one less. One. One clutch of chickies requires between 350 and 570 caterpillars a day, and they do that for 16 days. That's where you come up with the 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillars to get that clutch. But then the parents continue to feed him caterpillars another 21 days, but they're flying all around. So, nobody's been able to count that. You're talking about tens of thousands of caterpillars required to make one nest of a chickadee. That's one bird. We want chickens, we want robins, we want cardinals, we want blue jays, we want, we want whole communities of birds. And we don't want one individual of each of those communities. So, you're really talking about hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of caterpillars required. And if you want them to breed in your yard, you've got to have those caterpillars in your yard because the birds are only foraging about 50 meters from the nest. They're not flying five miles down the road to the nearest woodland. That's why it's so important to make our yards vibrant ecosystems. We need ecosystem services everywhere, not just in parks and preserves. That's not nearly enough. A question is coming up for me on behalf of people who. Maybe you're listening and hearing, okay, the goal is to add nesting and productivity of birds. Why, for what, what do we need all the birds for? I focus on birds because it's a hook. A lot of people like birds. I think the figure, in the U S is 70 million people are putting out bird food. They love birds. But again, why do we need them? It gets back to the number of species in that ecosystem. They are an important component of the diversity in that ecosystem. And the more diverse it is, the more Ecosystem services it's going to provide. The more resiliency it has, the more redundancy. So, if you lose one species, there's other species there to perform their ecological roles. When we make very simplified ecosystems, you take one away and the whole thing falls apart. My father once asked me, "What good's a housefly?" And, and you get asked, yeah, what good's a mosquito? What's good's this, that? Don't look at individual species. Look at the whole. What good is, is in an ecosystem with a lot of species in it? They're all important doing particular things, mostly in ways we can't even imagine how they interact with each other. We talk about counting species, but what's really important is counting how species interact. With each other. That's where the invasive plant problem comes in because they're not interacting. So, they're there and people say, well, we've got more species now than we used to. You've got more plant species, but most of them are inert. I call them statues. They're just there, but they're not contributing. They're not interacting with the life around them because they didn't co-evolve with the life around them. So, what we want to maximize in our ecosystems is species interactions. And the natives do that so much better. So, I told my father, well, what good are humans? He couldn't answer that one. So, we, we dropped it, Well, but to your point, the housefly is part of the food web. I'm so glad that you brought up the interaction piece in trophic structures, as well as understanding ecosystem functionality. In a post cop 15 world where we have a Global Biodiversity Framework, many of the assessments and evaluation methods that are coming out to address this, and hopefully stay biodiversity loss, are focused on species abundance, counting populations, which additionality and all kinds of issues. In Idaho, for instance, we have a state that is. It's wildly misrepresenting wolf populations to push anecdotal policymaking, much to the detriment of the wolf populations there. So, it can be used quite negatively. What I want to ask is how do you track interactions? How do you track predation? How do you track pollination events? It seems very difficult also to validate, to verify these interactions. It is difficult. It is difficult. A friend in Reno has had an EarthWatch project for over 30 years now where they're doing exactly that. They're collecting caterpillars and then all the parasitoids that attack those caterpillars. And then the hyper parasitoids that attack those parasitoids to build at least a three trophic level. You've got the plant, you've got the caterpillar, and you've got the different layers of parasitoids. To give you some idea of the complexity of the interactions that are associated with single plants or single species of caterpillars. But of course, all kinds of things eat those caterpillars other than parasitoids, they're not measuring that. It is very difficult to have an accurate measure of all of the interactions that are happening out there. But it's why we always use the word food web instead of food chain. They're not linear. There's not one thing eating one thing. There's, 40 things eating one thing and then 80 things eating them and just goes out like a spider web and it's extremely complex. So, you are right. It is very, very difficult to measure. But if you have a plant that's not supporting any caterpillars right away, you've knocked out thousands of interactions. So, we don't have to be able to count them all to know whether that plant is contributing a lot or not. If we know the number of species recorded using a plant, we have a very good, again, it's an index of the potential number of interactions that plant is supporting. So, that index helps you understand which interactions might be the kind of keystone interactions within the web. At least for the basic functionality. Trying to piece together how we can model, how we can structure these webs in a way at least like we know that we're hitting critical processes. We simplify it. We just say the ones supplying the most interactions are the most important. That's good. Otherwise, it's endless. The problem is nature is infinite in these processes. We're never going to know. We're never going to know all of it. When a caterpillar poops, it's called frass, and it falls to the ground, what happens to that? Well, a bunch of collembolans eat it, and fungi get on it, and then bacteria, and it's another entire food web on the ground after that caterpillar pooped. To put that into the interactions, too. It makes me wonder If it puts the frass in the sassafras. Maybe [Laughs], I hadn't thought of that. Answers the question where the frass comes from. I want to talk about Homegrown National Park. So, what's the significance of the combined area of people's private lawns nationwide? Well, I think it was 2005 paper came out saying we got, got 40 million acres of lawn. The figure now, the latest one I've seen is 44 million acres. So, it's not getting smaller. That's an area bigger than, than all of New England. If we cut that area in half, that would give us 20 million acres that we could restore. Right where we live. And this is where I came up with the idea of a homegrown National Park. We're going to put nature back. We're right where we live. It'll be homegrown and 20 million acres. If you add it up, it's bigger than all of our major national parks combined. Yosemite, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, all those guys combined. It's still less than 20 million acres. So, Hong Kong National Park will be the biggest park in the country. This is the type of language I use to get people excited about simply doing some conservation right where they live. It will start to create viable habitat outside of parks and preserves. Which builds connectivity between the isolated fragments that are left and any bit of conservation we do outside of a park helps conservation inside of the park. It helps those other migrants that we're talking about the biggest thing that we're excited about in terms of homegrown National Park is that it enlists the participation of millions of people right now. Conservation is left up to a few conservation biologists and a few ecologists. It's not nearly enough. Every property owner or every volunteer who can influence a piece of the earth is now responsible for the future of conservation. That's the exciting part about this and it's simply a matter of the whole idea of Homegrown National Park is to get that message to go viral. That everybody's responsible for their little piece of the earth When you register your property on our biodiversity map and the amount of area, you're going to be a good steward of, then a little flyer firefly lights it up. We want the entire country to light up. We've got what? 37, 000 members at this point, but we don't want to take. Membership away from any other conservation organization. We're not going to compete with Audubon or National Wildlife Federation. We're all in this together. So, we don't charge. We're not pulling people away. We do want to record the good work that people are doing and all those organizations on one single visual we call the biodiversity map. But that means we're entirely supported by, people's generosity and with any nonprofit, that's always a challenge. We get emails every day. Do this, do this. These are great ideas. Get your team to do this. What team is that? It all takes money. And that's the big challenge, of course. It's a really beautiful invitation for people who want to be part of a solution. Who want to take action, who want to feel empowered, who want to be a part of something bigger. Just by working in their garden or working on their lawn, because as you mentioned, we can all have beautiful gardens and lawns that are functioning ecologically, are contributing to the food webs, and are inviting nature back. It's doable. You've done it. You're inspiring me to do it. I've got some grass that needs to go away we've got trees, but I think we we're gonna add some beds of proper plantings this spring here Congratulate you even before you do it. Thank you. and I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me. I appreciate the opportunity.

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