Summers are tough on the Chesapeake. Water quality monitoring data show a large area of oxygen-depleted water in the mainstem of the Bay, often from the Patapsco River near Baltimore to the mouth of the York River in Virginia.
Oxygen is vital to animals and plants in the Bay. During low oxygen (hypoxic) or no oxygen (anoxic) conditions, almost all of the Bay's wildlife is affected. The combination of excess nutrients and sediment flowing into the Bay contribute hypoxic conditions.
The nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus are found in organic matter, fertilizers, pet wastes and more. When it rains, nutrients from streets, lawns, farms and sewage-treatment plants wash into streams and rivers, eventually entering the Chesapeake.
Once in the Bay, these excess nutrients fuel the rapid growth of algae known as blooms, which cloud the water and reduce sunlight reaching underwater plants and animals. When these large blooms die, huge amounts of oxygen are used up as they decay.
Each of the more than 16.6 million people living in the Chesapeake Bay watershed contributes to nutrient pollution. Conservation landscaping-also known as BayScaping-reduces pollution and improves the local environment as well as reduces the amount of nutrients.
Typical landscapes need high inputs of chemicals, fertilizers, water, time and energy-human as well as gas-powered-to maintain. An easy way to reduce one's environmental impacts is to replace lawn areas with locally native trees, shrubs and perennial plants.
Native species have many advantages. Because they are adapted to local soils and climate conditions, native plants generally require less watering and fertilizing than non- natives. Natives are often more resistant to insects and less likely to need pesticides.
The roots of larger native plants are also deeper than those of typical lawn grasses, which makes them better at capturing rainwater They are also more resistant to disease.
Conservation landscaping requires less maintenance over the long term, while still presenting a "maintained" appearance.
Like any new landscape, some upkeep is required, but it is usually less costly and less harmful to the environment. New plants need watering and monitoring during the first season until they are established. Garden maintenance is then reduced to only minimal seasonal cleanup and occasional weeding or plant management.
Conservation landscaping can also address problems such as steep slopes or poor drainage. Native species planted on slopes or along water bodies and drainage ditches help to prevent erosion by stabilizing the soil. They also reduce pollution by slowing the flow of runoff, allowing it to seep into the ground instead of flowing directly into local waterways.
In addition, the structure, leaves, flowers, seeds, berries and other fruits of these plants provide food for a variety of birds and other wildlife. Stems and seed heads of flowers and grasses can provide food and cover throughout fall and winter.
For the greatest ecological value, plants should be grouped and planted according to the growing conditions. Species sharing similar requirements are found together in plant communities that make up habitats. So, instead of planting a tree in the middle of a lawn, try grouping trees, shrubs and perennials to create layers of vegetation.
These layers provide the structure and variety needed to support wildlife by providing habitat for shelter and breeding or nesting.
All animals need water year-round to survive. Even a small dish of water, changed daily to prevent mosquito growth, will provide for some birds and butterflies. Puddles, pools or a small pond can be a home for amphibians and aquatic insects. Circulating water will attract wildlife, stay cleaner and prevent mosquitoes.
By redefining landscaping goals and gradually shifting to using native species, landowners are rewarded with improved environmental quality and aesthetics, cost savings and wildlife on one's property.
As the population in the watershed grows and land use pressures intensify, it is increasingly important to protect our remaining natural areas and wildlife and to reduce nutrients flowing into the Bay.
Individual actions are great, and every bit helps no matter what size. By working together, the Bay and its treasures can be conserved for future generations.
Replace these invasive, non-native plants with these native species
|Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)||Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)|
|Common Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva)||Ox-eye Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)|
|Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda)||Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)|
|English Ivy (Hedera helix)||Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)|
|Winged Burning Bush (Euonymous alata)||Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)|
Leaf Through These to Learn About Native Plants
These publications provide information about native plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed:
- Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping / Chesapeake Bay Watershed: www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/chesapeake. Single copies of this document are available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; call 410-573 4582
- Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping in Maryland: www.nps.gov/plants/pubs/nativesMD/index.htm.
- Plant Invaders of the Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas: www.nps.gov/plants/alien/pubs/midatlantic/midatlanticprint.htm.