To go along with McMaster’s beautiful campus is the extraordinary landscaping of all of its green space. One issue that often comes up when talking about green space and gardening is that of native species.
The issue here is that many times during extensive gardening and landscaping there is the desire to use interesting vegetation that may be exotic.
An overview of the issue from the Environment Canada website on Invasive Alien Species in Canada will help to make sense of some of the issues involved:
- Alien species: a plant or animal that is not from the immediate area which may have come from another part of the country or another country altogether by way of human travel modes such as cargo, ship ballasts or the bottom of a boat.
- Environment Canada explains how not all alien species pose immediate risk and that some of them may even provide important benefits. However, some alien species can cause very significant ecological, economic and environmental damage.
- Invasive Alien Species: plants, animals, and micro-organisms that have been relocated to environments outside of their natural past or present distribution. They are harmful species whose introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy and society.
- Invasive Alien species are so harmful because they are the second most significant threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. This is because they may become predators, competitors, parasites, hybridizers and diseases to native plants and animals. Furthermore, they invade their new ecosystem, upsetting the natural balance that existed before they were introduced.
More on the issue: why the push for native species on campus?
- Native species have adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. This means that they do not need as many resources such as watering or fertilizers to grow properly. What is considered 'poor' soil for an exotic plant might be ideal conditions for a native species to thrive.
- Native plant species have evolved with native animal and insects and will provide habitat and a food source. Including native species on campus may make it a migration corridor for urban wildlife.
What McMaster is Doing:
- McMaster has recently increased the use of native species, ornamental grasses and drought tolerant plants that help conserve water. The incorporation of robust perennials, which require less watering, help make McMaster's green space as sustainable as possible.
- Plants surrounding the David Braley Athletic Centre are all Native and extremely drought resistent.
December 19, 2011