Sunday, August 14, 2011

Utilities right-of-way. Native plants

Horsham Trail. Utilities right-of-way. Too much lawn, perhaps

Why don’t we turn all the utilities right-of-way lands into oases for wildlife? Am I a dreamer? I hope not. Near my home, a several miles long trail runs under high-voltage wires. When I walk there I see joggers and bikers, mothers pushing baby carriages, and walkers, just like me. The surroundings are pleasant, just a tad artificial, not quite a nature area; although closer to a nature area than busy noisy streets.

A corn field next to the utilities right-of-way
Horsham Trail

How much work and investment would it take to turn such areas into natural or semi-natural ecosystems? Perhaps, with careful planning, they would be easier and cheaper to maintain if they were allowed to become more natural.

Restored native grasses at Pennypack Restoration Trust
An example of what can be done

For instance, most of the lawns near the trail could be turned into wildflower meadows. The lawn closer to the trails could be allowed to support many broad leaved plants; accepting them as grass companions rather than treating them as weeds. It would be helpful to replace the non-native trees already planted with native ones, which are considerably better at supporting wildlife.

"Unkempt" lawn with wildflowers which attract butterflies.
Horsham trail

Some of these measures may be expensive at first but, ultimately, they would save money and upkeep time because native vegetation has evolved in that particular kind of soil and climate and is best suited for it. It also has co-evolved with the other members of the community. Native plants support more wildlife, including butterflies and birds, thus beautifying the land, in addition to improving the ecological balance. All and all it is a win-win situation.

List of articles

Invasive species

I do not hate invasive species

This article expresses my opinion on introduced species that become invasive. The species themselves are fine; what is problematic is our intentional and unintentional carrying plants and other organisms to other lands. This has given rise to an incredible large number of transplanted species that continue to alter ecosystems beyond anything that we could have imagined. The impact of introduced species on ecosystems continue to have all sorts of unintended consequences.