TPWD publication LF D0200-520, edited by Rebecca Schumacher  

 

Did you know the greatest cause of species decline is loss of habitat (or living space)? An effective wildlife habitat will provide three basic needs – food, shelter and water in a way that wildlife can readily use and easily access. By providing the basics, in a diverse and well-planned manner, you will make your garden more attractive to native wildlife, even in urban environments. 

Every organism needs a unique combination of food, water and habitat if it is to survive and reproduce. If any one of these elements is lost, the organism either leaves the area or dies. Since different species need different combinations of food, water and space, it is a rare site that does not support some kind of organism. Those organisms that are able to use the greatest variety of food, water and types of living spaces are called generalists. They tend to be widespread and numerous. 

Generalists are able to handle moderate changes in their environment. Specialists are organisms that have very specific living requirements. They are often very successful at making use of something in their environment that other organisms do not or cannot use. Most specialists are found in very limited areas. Their numbers may be large where they are found but a loss of any part of their unique habitat causes a rapid decline in their population. Endangered species are usually specialists.

Where do humans come into this picture? 

Humans are able to alter their environment more than any other organism. In doing so, they produce even more habitat suitable for themselves. Needless to say, humans are generalists. They eat many different kinds of food and live in many different kinds of habitat. 

Humans alter their environment in ways to make life more comfortable for themselves and to supply their own needs for food, water and living space. For example, prairies are cleared for farms that produce food. Forests are cut for wood products and additional living spaces. Rivers are dammed for water, flood control and the production of electricity. Wetlands are drained for farmlands and the construction of roads and homes. Mountains are mined for their minerals. All of these changes have impacts on the other organisms that share those spaces and get their food and water from them. Often, in the process of creating more habitat, humans alter the environment enough to eliminate the food, water or living spaces needed by other organisms to survive. Knowledge is the key to understanding habitat and each of us has our own part to play in protecting and restoring habitat to its former diversity. 

One way you can make a difference and enjoy more urban wildlife, is to plan a wildscape certification for your yard. Plants provide both food and shelter requirements for wildlife. Since wildlife thrives in the presence of plants they have adapted to, native plants are encouraged in the Wildscapes program. Properties applying for certification must ensure that at least 50 percent of the plants used in their landscaping are native to Texas. Select plants for their food value as well as plants that will grow to different heights and density. This layering effect will allow wildlife to select areas they find most comfortable. Shelter may also include nest boxes, brush piles, rock piles, toad houses and other shelter projects. 

More information is available at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/wildscapes/wildscape_certification.phtml .

Do you think nature should be part of our everyday life, not just somewhere to go on the weekends?  

You are invited to attend the free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Red Oak Library, 200 Lakeview Pkwy. in Red Oak. 

For more information on the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter, contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 972-825-5175, email at information@itmnc.com  or visit  http://txmn.org/indiantrail/.