#SummerScienceFridays | What’s In Our Watershed: Habitat
Los Angeles is located in the California Floristic Province, a region known to be a biodiversity hotspot, due to its Mediterranean climate. LA's biodiversity is facing a huge threat from habitat loss and climate change. So, how can we live sustainably and preserve our unique diversity? At CWH, we continue to partner with agencies, organizations, and local governments to revitalize our rivers, neighborhoods, and watershed with nature-based projects to create natural habitats for native species in our city-scape. On this #SummerScienceFriday, we explain the importance of preserving biodiversity in our watershed and remind you of those we are trying to protect.
Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is a measure of the number and variety of organisms that live in an area. These organisms include anything from bacteria to top predators like bears and lions. Naturally, all organisms play a different role in an ecosystem, whether it’s pollination, nutrient cycling, or food web interactions. Without the presence of one species, the ecosystem will collapse, making biodiversity a key indicator of an ecosystem’s resilience. For example, every organism relies on another organism for food. If one organism in the food chain goes extinct, feeding strategies will change, threatening the population of other species that rely on them for food.
Biodiversity is also important because it provides ecosystem services to people. These benefits can include forming nutrient rich soils for our crops, cleaner air and water, pest regulation, and pollination. We rely on pollinators for crop production and without certain pollinators, we would lose certain crops. In addition, this is incredibly important in the context of climate change. In addition to urbanization, a changing climate will force ecosystems and species to fluctuate, making it difficult for certain species to adapt to drier soils and hotter temperatures. Without certain species and diverse ecosystems, crop production will decline and we will be susceptible to damage from natural hazards (hurricanes, storms, etc.) without the protection from wetlands and sturdy soils. Thus, it is important we create more areas that can support these species within our urban landscape.
Native, Non-Native, and Invasive Species
It’s important to mention that just measuring biodiversity won’t necessarily tell us whether that area is more composed of natives or non-natives. An ecosystem could have high biodiversity, which at first glance would indicate a healthy ecosystem, but also be composed of mostly invasive species. While higher biodiversity is important, we must particularly work towards preserving native biodiversity.
Native species are those that originated and are naturally found in a particular area, while non-natives are introduced to an area. Invasive species are non-native species that spread beyond their intended area and cause harm to native ecosystems. Invasive species adapt to new areas easily and reproduce quickly. They can alter native soils, preventing natives from growing and plants like kudzu can grow uncontrollably and cause property damage. Invasive animals can alter food web interactions due to a lack of predators in their new location, and can threaten the species they prey on.
We hope to remind our readers of the species that our environment can support, and inspire watershed stewardship to protect their habitats in an ever-growing urban setting. Check out some native species that you can find in our watershed!
Creating Schoolyard Habitats
The next time you’re in class, on campus, or in your home learning environment, you can create a space for species to grow! Here are ways you can create habitats in your learning environment:
Create more green spaces
Remove invasive plant species
Plant native species
Create healthy soils
Install bird boxes and feeders
For more information on how to create habitats in your learning environment and to track the species that inhabit your spaces, check out these resources:
National Wildlife Foundation: A guide to creating Schoolyard Habitats
eBird: Share your bird sightings
iNaturalist: Share your species sightings
Links to Lesson Plans
Aquarium of the Pacific (Grades 6-8): Kelp Forest Habitat Lesson Plan
California Academy of Sciences (Grades 1-3): Habitat Adaptation Match-Up
Remember to tag us in your photos this summer with #WatershedActive and stay connected with us!