Protecting the Environment Starts in Your Backyard

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Presentation by Michael Trop, Conservation Education Specialist for the John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District -- at PEC's Sustainable Landscaping Workshop in Warrenton, VA on September 7, 2013.

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  • You’re a part of anecoregion: Blue Ridge, Northern Piedmont, and Piedmont. Blue Ridge – Diverse Ecoregion with forested slopes, high-gradient, cool clear streams, and rugged terrain. Northern Piedmont – transitional region with low rounded hills and open valleys that are predominately in Appalachian Oak Forest. Piedmont – Transitional area that was once largely cultivated, much of the region has reverted to pine and hardwood woodlands.
  • What looks like wonderful habitat to us can be awful habitat for the native species that live in the ecosystem. Habitat loss is one of the main reasons for species decline in the world. Sara Stein describes the American lawn as the "perfect antithesis of an ecological system“ in her book Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of our own Backyards.
  • Kudzu smothers, Tree of Heaven displaces and out-competes, some like Emerald Ash Borer which attacks various Ash species can wipe out entire species, and others like the Gypsy Moth can completely defoliate mountainsides.
  • Our yards are also a part of many habitat ranges: This is the Indian Bat an endangered species throughout its range. These bats usually roost under loose tree bark on trees. Placing a bat box on your property can be a good way to support the habitat needs of this species but my experience is that bats are very selective and bat boxes that are most effective as a replacement for undesirable roosts found in your attic or barn.
  • The Cedar Waxwing is a beautiful permanent resident of our area. We can make our yards more attractive to these birds by planting native cherries, hawthorns, mountain ashes, elderberries, red elder, serviceberries, and junipers.
  • The Jefferson Salamander is rare in much of its range and like many amphibians and reptiles their species is at risk due to habitat loss and modification. Unlike birds and bats, amphibians and reptiles cannot fly, making roads and even mowed lawns barriers that are difficult and sometimes impossible for them to safely maneuver. You can support amphibians by creating a shallow vernal pool in your back yard (without fish and heavily planted). Or you can do something as simple as leaving leave litter rocks and fallen logs in your yard.
  • Pollinators in your yard supports pollination of crops at nearby farm or maybe even in your own vegetable garden!
  • A balanced ecosystem with a diversity of habitats provides for a diversity of wildlife which will provide natural checks and balances to reduce, and hopefully, eliminate the need for pesticides. Insects are the foundation of the food web for the native species we love. In a native plant garden you will find eggs on your plants and half eaten leaves but that is an important part of having a balanced ecosystem. To support birds, bats, turtles, and salamanders we have to also support the insects they eat!
  • Healthy soil is alive and capable of quickly and efficiently breaking down yard waste such as lawn clippings and leaf litter. In fact leaving these materials supports the health of your soil and helps to retain nutrients needed for continued growth. Healthy soil supports mycorrhize and other microscopic life that in turn supports plants and insects which then support birds and insect eating wildlife!
  • Protecting the Environment Starts in Your Backyard

    1. 1. Protecting the Environment Starts in Your Backyard Michael Trop Conservation Education Specialist John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District September 7, 2013
    2. 2. Kettle Run Map Source: US EPA
    3. 3. Broad Run Kettle Run Map Source: US EPA
    4. 4. Occoquan River Broad Run Kettle Run Map Source: US EPA
    5. 5. Occoquan River Broad Run Kettle Run Map Source: US EPA Potomac River
    6. 6. Chesapeake Bay Occoquan River Broad Run Kettle Run Map Source: US EPA Potomac River
    7. 7. Upstream & Downstream • What you do to your lawn affects people, plants, and animals downstream • What people upstream do to their lawn affects your water quality – Follow the Golden Rule
    8. 8. What’s in your yard can affect water quality? Pet Waste Fertilizer Pesticides Septic Systems Sediment
    9. 9. Causes and Solutions • Fertilizer – N&P contribute to many of the dissolved oxygen problems in the Bay – Apply fertilizer only as needed (follow directions); get your soil tested • Pet Waste – E. coli impairs many streams in our area – Pick up after your pet, even in the backyard • Septic Systems – Bacteria and raw sewage can contaminate water – Have your system inspected & pumped regularly
    10. 10. Causes and Solutions • Pesticides – May harm aquatic wildlife and contaminate groundwater – Apply pesticides only as needed (follow directions); more is not more effective; use correct pesticide • Sediment – Sediment can clog waterways & nutrients and chemicals can attach to sediments and be carried downstream – Seed or sod lawn areas prone to erosion; plants and trees help too
    11. 11. Protecting the Environment Starts in Your Backyard Con’t Julie Bolthouse Fauquier County Land Use Officer Piedmont Environmental Council September 7, 2013
    12. 12. Virginia Ecoregions 45. Piedmont 63. Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain 64. Northern Piedmont 65. Southeastern Plains 66. Blue Ridge 67. Ridge and Valley 69. Central Appalachian
    13. 13. Fragmentation and Modification
    14. 14. Invasion by Alien Species Kudzu Tree of Heaven Emerald Ash Borer Gypsy Moth Image Credit: US Forest Service Photo Credit: Scott Edhart (contribution to public domain) Photo Credit: Scott Edhart (contribution to public domain) Image Credit: US Forest Service
    15. 15. Wildlife Ranges Indian Bat US Fish and Wildlife Approximate Range of Indiana Bat Image Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service
    16. 16. Wildlife Ranges Cedar Waxwing Image Credit: National Audubon Society Photo Credit: Ken Thomas (contributed to public domain)
    17. 17. Wildlife Ranges Jefferson Salamander Image Credit: US Department of Agriculture
    18. 18. Biodiversity Image Credit: John White Prince William Conservation Alliance Image Credit: Branlon (contributed to public domain) Image Credit: Snowmanradio (contributed to public domain) Image Credit: Julia Flanagan with Prince William Conservation Alliance Image Credit: Kim Hosen with Prince William Conservation Alliance  50 Mammals  69 Fish  23 Amphibians  31 Reptiles  15 Mollusks  178 Birds
    19. 19. Ecosystem Services Pollination Image Credit: Kim Hosen with Prince William Conservation Alliance
    20. 20. Ecosystem Services Pest Management – Diversity = Balanced Ecosystem 96% of birds rear their young on insects and spiders Photo Credits: Magee Design
    21. 21. Ecosystem Services • Nutrient Cycling – Healthy soil is alive! Image Credit: USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
    22. 22. Start at Home There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self. So you have to begin there... - Aldous Huxley
    23. 23. Start Small All big things are made up of trifles… My entire life has been built on trifles. - Mahatma Gandhi
    24. 24. And Don’t Ever Doubt that Your Efforts Make a Difference “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

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