by Victoria Wittig, Project Coordinator, Save the Dunes
Biodiversity. The definition of biodiversity is "the variety of species and ecosystems in a given geographic area." But what does that really mean for the Indiana Dunes? Why do we have so much biodiversity here? And how is Save the Dunes working hard to protect it by giving you the tools you need to join in our efforts? Let’s start with some of the basics.
The effect of Lake Michigan on our climate, along with the great variety of ecosystems that occur within Indiana’s relatively small coastal area, explain much of the plant and animal diversity found here. Ecosystems within the Indiana Dunes National Park alone provide habitat for approximately 1,130 species of plants, 352 species of birds, 46 species of mammals, 18 species of amphibians, 23 species of reptiles, 71 species of fish, 60 species of dragonflies and damselflies and 60 species of butterflies!
This treasure-trove of biodiversity was a primary reason for the creation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore back in 1966 and why it was recently redesignated to the well-deserved status of a National Park. Even before that, it was a key reason for the creation of the Indiana Dunes State Park in 1925 and why efforts to Save the Dunes continued and ultimately, persevered.
The rich biodiversity of the Indiana Dunes is also a primary reason for the presence of so many state and local government offices, conservation organizations and land managers with incredible expertise. All of these experts are actively working together to conserve, protect and restore areas within, adjacent to and outside Park boundaries. So, while it is easy to become discouraged with alarming reports documenting a significant decline in biodiversity worldwide, we have tremendous natural resources at our fingertips and an incredible network of experts to learn from in the Indiana Dunes.
Something that we are most excited about at Save the Dunes is our new project, “Living in the Dunes: A guide to pollinator habitat landscaping for Indiana’s coastal communities,” funded by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Lake Michigan Coastal Program. This will be the second installment of our award-winning Living in the Dunes guide, with a focus on extending the protective boundaries of our Parks by creating habitat for pollinator biodiversity in our own backyard! Whether your home is situated adjacent to the Parks or is in a community nearby, there is no question that you live within a landscape that includes the eastern deciduous forest, boreal forest remnants, wetlands, dunes and prairies that also serve as home for astounding biodiversity. The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to landscaping with plants from these ecosystems.
Work has already begun to bring our expert partners together to collaboratively develop this new and beautifully inspiring, step-by-step pollinator habitat planting guide. Throughout the process, we will endeavor to put our tools for biodiversity conservation in your hands. You’ll be amazed by how quickly your gardens spring to life with a treasure-trove of pollinators when you learn how to plant with the native species that provide them with food, shelter, and habitat. Our guide will also empower you with the tools you need to maintain your native gardens so they are not only stunning but that they are positioned to thrive on your landscape for years to come. We will also provide you with the tools to select plants that support your favorite pollinator species, and vice-versa! Together we will not only extend the boundaries of our Parks, we will soften the edges by restoring biodiversity in our own backyards. Please stay tuned and check back for updates!