Wildlife Gardening, or how to engage citizens in nature conservation

What is wildlife Gardening?

Wildlife gardening is known as a school of gardening that is aimed at creating an environment that is attractive to various forms of wildlife. It was promoted by some great activists such as Chris Baines, Jenny Owen and some environmental NGOs around the world such as Wildlife Trusts in the UK

A wildlife garden is an environment created by a gardener that serves as a sustainable haven for surrounding wildlife. Wildlife gardens contain a variety of habitats that cater to native and local plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, mammals and so on. 


Wildlife gardening as a concept, a great opportunity for nature conservation

Nature conservation is a big challenge today, many organisations are deploying huge resources in order to save endangered species and ecosystems. But the wave of destruction they are facing is too big. So far, the nature conservation community is losing the war. 

Thus, we need a game changing solution, and this solution can not be without engaging urban citizens. 

The main threat on nature and wildlife today are humans, and to be more specific, this threat arises from urban consumer society. A growing proportion of people today tend to live in artificial bubbles where they fear and ignore nature.

Wildlife gardening concept is about turning this major threat into a great opportunity. 

It is about engaging urban citizens in nature conservation by promoting and supporting wildlife gardening initiatives.

 How wildlife gardeners contribute to nature conservation?

Gardens in urban areas can connect corridors of habitat necessary for migratory species between natural and larger protected areas of habitat. They provide a continuum of resources if planted with a rich diversity of native plants and trees to supply the food chain for insects and the animals who depend on them.

Wildlife gardeners are people who are aware of and interested in the creatures in their garden and they manage their gardens with wildlife in mind. It should include communities of natural gardeners, traditional farmers, permaculturists, urban gardeners, agroecologists, botanical gardeners, synergetic gardeners and more. 

Large or small, ledge or yard, in the ground, in a window-box or on rooftops, private or public, gardens have the potential to be great fields of wildlife conservation. 

Dr Jennifer Owen, who has studied her modest size suburban garden in the UK over 30 years, has recorded 2673 species: 474 plants, 1997 insects, 138 other invertebrates (e.g. spiders, slugs, woodlice…) and 64 vertebrates (54 of them birds). In some groups, such as harvertmen, butterflies, moths, hoverflies, bees, ladybirds, this represents a quarter or more of the total number known from the whole Britain. But that is only the tip of the iceberg, because no attempt was made to identify or count large groups of insects.

We in Exploralis, observed with attention one of our member’s wildlife gardening experience on the coast of Tunisia, we came to realize, that some trees planted a few years ago (such as berry trees and fig trees), offered shelter and food to some migrant birds coming from southern Africa on their way to Europe (such as golden oriole). Proof that the impact of a garden goes far beyond its territory.

we also realized that the garden was attracting songbirds, Bird of prey, bats and some insects that are mentioned in IUCN red list.

How can wildlife gardening educate people about nature conservation?

People today are more and more disconnected from nature. Wildlife gardening can be a great education tool for urban population about nature conservation. 

Public and private wildlife gardens can host peer to peer learning activities about biodiversity and inspire people to contribute and set up their own wildlife domestic gardens.

Wildlife gardening and human wellbeing

Wildlife gardens have a great potential to improve people’s well-being, both individually through the enjoyment of their own gardens and collectively through the contribution of city/village gardens to environmental enhancement. 

Psychological, cognitive, physiological, social, and spiritual wellbeing benefits are reported from interacting with nature. These benefits include increased self-esteem, reduced anxiety, improved mood, attention restoration, improved cognitive function, stress reduction, and social cohesion. 

Biodiversity-rich urban spaces will also bring nature-based solutions to overcrowded and increasingly hot cities, and increase resilience to floods and climate change.

What role can play big nature conservation organisations?

Urban citizens are important potential land conservation actors since: residential gardens comprise a sizable proportion of urban lands and because gardens can play a meaningful role in conserving native flora and fauna. However, the reality of the cities is that many forms of land, including residential holdings, are undervalued as conservation spaces and there is poor engagement and networking of land users or occupiers with capacity to contribute. In most of the countries, conservation is often disconnected from residents’ daily lives, instead seen as the province of experts or paid professional staff. 

Big nature conservation organisations can lead the way of engaging urban citizens and landowners in wildlife conservation actions by recognizing and supporting the wildlife gardening concept. 

Recognising wildlife gardeners and the important role they play in nature conservation is one first step to start with. 

The large and well organized community of scientists and environmental activists need to include wildlife gardeners and work with them to protect wildlife within urban areas and engage urban population in the process. 

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