How Native Plants Can Help Combat Climate Change

Native plants and climate change are vital topics that are increasingly gaining attention. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time, and its effects are being felt worldwide. Higher temperatures, more prolonged droughts, and extreme weather events dramatically affect our daily lives and the broader ecosystem.

One way we can mitigate the impact of climate change is by planting native plant species. Native plants are adapted to local environmental conditions, making them better able to withstand extreme weather events and other impacts of climate change. 

For example, higher temperatures cause native plants to experience more heat-related stress, but they are better able to adapt to these conditions than common non-native plants. Native plants also require less water than non-native species, which can help conserve this valuable resource.

Native plants and carbon

Plants are a vital part of the carbon cycle, providing an essential service to preserve and protect Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon sequestration is the process of plants absorbing, trapping, and storing CO2 from the atmosphere in various forms. This helps reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our environment and mitigate its harmful effects.

This is mainly done through root systems deep in the soil, meaning native plants play an essential role in preserving our atmosphere by slowing down the release of carbon. When these plants take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow, a portion of that carbon is stored in the soil once the plants die and decompose. This process of soil-based carbon sequestration has made native plants exceptionally adept at storing carbon due to their evolved ability to adapt and thrive in local environmental conditions. 

This adaptation supports healthy soil ecosystems, which are then better able to absorb and lock away CO2, making native plants an essential component in our effort to tackle climate change.

Another way that native plants lock away carbon is through the biomass they produce. Carbon is mainly stored in these plants’ leaves, stems, and roots, allowing it to remain stored away for many years after the plant has died. Forests are particularly effective carbon sinks as they can absorb and store a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Capturing and storing carbon in biomass has immense ecological benefits, making native plants an invaluable asset to society’s efforts against climate change.

Benefits of native plants in reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Plants draw carbon out of the atmosphere, trapping it within their biomass and soil, and they also provide other tangible environmental benefits. By using native plants in our gardens and other outdoor spaces, homeowners and other landowners don’t need to purchase fertilizers and pesticides for landscaping purposes, both of which require fossil fuels for production. 

Just as important is that landscapes with native plants typically use far less water than those planted with designer lawns or non-native plants. So native plant gardens aren’t just a cost-effective way to store carbon. They can also help conserve our energy resources by reducing water processing, chemical production, and transport demand.

Native plants and climate resilience

Native plants offer various natural benefits, from protecting precious pollinators like bees to improving soil health. But one of their biggest benefits may be in helping to reduce the urban heat island effect

By providing shade and helping to absorb the sun’s energy, native plants in urban spaces can offer significant relief in hotter climates that remain vulnerable to this dangerous effect. Planting these species should be an integral part of developing resilience strategies for global climate change.

And then there’s the fact that native plants help reduce soil erosion which helps ensure clean streams, rivers, and aquatic habitats. With the host of benefits native plants provide, we must consider including them in our regular landscape maintenance routines.

Of course, as native species have developed genetics adapted to local climates, they offer an invaluable resource for conservationists who may otherwise struggle to maintain biodiversity and enable ecosystems to thrive in the face of ever-changing climate conditions. As such, encouraging the widespread establishment of native plants is one of the most effective strategies to build resilience towards climate change and its associated consequences.

Understanding native plants

Using native plants to combat climate change can be incredibly effective. Certain native plants, such as little bluestem, and milkweed, have been proven to be particularly useful in this regard. Of these species, milkweed is especially valuable. Not only is it drought-tolerant and able to attract numerous pollinators, but it’s also the primary food source for monarch butterflies.

In other words, milkweed enables the monarchs’ entire life cycle by being a host plant they can lay their eggs on, being the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Incorporating native plants like milkweed into ecological restoration efforts can not only make a substantial contribution to our fight against climate change but can also help monarch butterfly populations to thrive.

To add native plants to your landscaping, it’s important to know which ones are native to your region, as native plants can differ according to which state you live in. By doing simple research with an online native plant finder, such as the one provided by Garden for Wildlife, you can quickly figure out which plants are native to your area. That makes it much easier to select plants perfectly adapted to your climate and soil conditions. 

Combat climate change, one plant at a time

Planting native plants is one of the most effective ways to help local wildlife, and to help in the fight against climate change. If you’re interested in using your own garden, Garden for Wildlife has resources to make it easier. 

The website offers collections of native plants that are easy to find and care for. By becoming certified with their program, you can contribute to the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge that aims to replenish resources for wildlife locally and along migratory corridors. Don’t wait. Become part of this important initiative today by visiting the Garden for Wildlife website and making a difference.

About Garden for Wildlife

Garden for Wildlife is a non-profit organization that, as part of the National Wildlife Federation, has been operating for more than 50 years to educate and empower people to create thriving habitats for wildlife. The organization has introduced millions of people to the urgent need to plant differently and to help declining species of wildlife in America. Garden for Wildlife has helped Americans of all backgrounds to create over 14 million square feet of wildlife-supporting gardens across the US with their innovative native plant collections that you can add to gardens. These plant collections are available in 36 states and come with free shipping.

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