to providing basic wildlife needs, your backyard habitat should
have other attributes. Consider the following when designing your
yard: Diversity, Layering, Edges, and Native Plants.
These will help
your design become a more livable and lasting place for wildlife.
Having a mix of different types of plants provides diversity. To
attract many species of wildlife, provide a variety of evergreen
and deciduous trees, and different seed bearing, fruit bearing,
and nectar producing shrubs and flowers. (See Fig. 1).
1. A habitat with variety-or diversity-means
wildlife will have more to choose from, so they
are more likely to find what they need. Habitat
diversity allows more animals to successfully coexist
in your yard.
habitat diversity equals
fewer wildlife species
habitat diversity equals
more wildlife species.
Naturally-occurring plants grow in many layers. They include tall
trees, short shrubs and ground cover, rather than all the same height.
Each level provides a home for varying wildlife species.
be accomplished by having the tallest trees at the edge of your
property. In front of these should come the smaller deciduous trees,
then tall shrubs, lower shrubs, and finally the ground cover. Plants
and ground covers tolerant of shade should be planted underneath
the tall plants. (Fig.2)
2. Different species of wildlife, especially birds, live
at different heights in the vegetation. Having many
layers of vegetation in your landscape allows wildlife
to select the layer to which they are best adapted for
survival. Missing plant layers equals missing wildlife
occur where different types of habitat meet. This example
shows a forest edge meeting a cleared opening.
refer to the area where two habitat types meet. When trees and shrubs
meet a grassy area or stream, for example, they create an edge.
Edges are important because they support a variety of wildlife.
can use edges to benefit wildlife. Those in your yard should mimic
natural edges. This means there should be layers of vegetation with
curved and irregular borders, much like the one would find along
a natural stream. (See Fig. 3.)
The best habitat for native wildlife is one with native plants,
plants that have evolved and occur naturally in your area. Native
plants are more closely matched to local soils, climate and wildlife.
They will be better, in the long run, at providing the right kinds
of food, shelter and diversity needed by wildlife. Native plants
typically need less maintenance than non-natives.
While some native
plants are readily available, others may be difficult to find. Check
with nurseries listed in the yellow pages. Call Urban Horticulture
Center (206) 685-8033 at the University of Washington, or check
online at: http://depts.washington.edu/urbhort/ , and Washington Native Plant Society (1-888) 288-8022, or check
online at: http://www.wnps.org The Washington State University Cooperative Extension (http://ext.wsu.edu/)
publishes a nursery guide including native plants sources. When
it is not possible to use native plants, choose plants adapted to
local site conditions.