Thursday, August 4, 2011

One of my Environmental Pet Peeves

Some of the dramatic but spooky skies during the forest fires this year in New Mexico at dusk............

A big pet peeve of mine: As I drive down 285 south to our home in the Art Barns south of Santa Fe I see that people are mowing the native high desert grasses and shrubs down to brown stubble which destroys our delicate desert soil which can become either very hard and packed or soft and friable and prone to blowing away as dust. I am not an expert on this subject but I can see what is happening. What returns when there is precipitation are noxious and allergy creating weeds such as ragweed. In this drought year it is particularly visible as the limited monsoon rains have come late enough that the native grasses are slow to green up and any bare spot has ragweed sprouting and seeding. I don't know if these residents come from other places such as 'back east' and want that suburban mowed look or what??????
We were so grateful to move somewhere where the noise and work of mowing with those infernal combustion machines is not part of our routine. Bob vowed that our riding mower would last until we moved and being over 20 years old it looked like the burnt out car from the movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", just a skeleton. And actually the last place we lived before New Mexico is not a place where lawns should be encouraged either. Sub-tropical Florida is more suitable for xeriscaping and native plants. I'm not talking about people mowing lawns in New Mexico. This is the desert flora they are mowing. Why??? It is beautiful and no-maintenance. For gardens and landscaping I recommend a well-informed native plant nursery like Plants of the Southwest here in Santa Fe
Their website is very informative and inspirational. Gail's catalog also contains lots of tips and it is a wonderful place to visit. Do a web search on native plants and find someone who can help you near where you live. You will save water, time and create beauty around you. 
This is the website for the Native Plant Society of New Mexico. It is helpful to see what other passionate native plant lovers have done with their property in your region.

Native plant is a term to describe plants endemic (indigenous) or naturalized to a given area in geologic time.
This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area (e.g. treesflowersgrasses, and other plants). In North America a plant is often deemed native if it was present before colonization.
Some native plants have adapted to a very limited, unusual environments or very harsh climates or exceptional soil conditions. Although some types of plants for these reasons exist only within a very limited range (endemism), others can live in diverse areas or by adaptation to different surroundings (indigenous plant).

Environmental conditions

Native plants form a part of a cooperative environment, or plant community, where several species or environments have developed to support them. This could be a case where a plant exists because a certain animal pollinates the plant and that animal exists because it relies on the pollen as a source of food. Some native plants rely on natural conditions, such as occasionalwildfires, to release their seeds or to provide a fertile environment where their seedlings can become established.

Invasive and native plants

Human intervention

As societies move plants to new locations for cultivation as crops or ornamentals (or transport them by accident), a percentage may become invasive species, damaging native plant communities in the introduced range. Besides ecological damage, these species can also damage agriculture, infrastructure, and cultural assets. Government agencies and environmental groups are directing increasing resources to addressing these species and their potential interactions with climate change.
Some[weasel words], however, believe that the introduction of exotic species by humans could be beneficial in the long term if it is done with an intent to blunt the effects of extinction on higher taxa (Theodoropoulos & Calkins, 1990). The rich diversity of unique species across many parts of the world exists only because bioregions are separated by barriers, particularly large riversseasoceansmountains and deserts.
Humans, migratory birds, ocean currents, etc. can introduce species that have never met in their evolutionary history, on varying time scales ranging from days to decades (Long, 1981)(Vermeij, 1991). Humans are moving species across the globe at an unprecedented rate. Those working to address invasive species view this as an increased risk. Theodoropoulos (2003) disagrees, believing that anthropogenic (human-assisted) dispersal can in no way be distinguished from natural dispersal, and in fact, this "increased rate of anthropogenic dispersal is a natural corollary of increased anthropogenic disturbance, and is not a harmful process, but a beneficial mitigation."

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