Native species are the species of plants, animals and insects that have inhabited a given area or region. Most of the species were around long before we got here and so they are an integral part of the web of life.
Native species are vital to our ecosystems
As native species have been living in an area for so long, they become an integral part of the web of life. A native type of fungus breaks down dead branches from a native type of tree, adding nutrients to the soil that allow a new tree to grow. That tree provides food for insects and habitat for birds.
The birds eat the insects, and in turn, are eaten by larger birds. If you take any one link in this chain away, the ecosystem changes - and could possibly even collapse.
Native species are important to people
It's said that 50 different species make up the food chain necessary for tuna to survive. That means that 50 species go into making your tuna fish sandwich (not even counting what goes into the bread, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise)! Native species are threatened when non-native species are introduced into an ecosystem.
Non-native species can often take over an area, choking out the native species - especially if introduced someplace where they have no natural predators. This goes for mammals, fish, insects and plants.
Individuals can make a difference
People can help stop the spread of dangerous non-native species, and help to reintroduce native species to their local ecosystems. Individuals should resist the urge to buy exotic pets, and make sure to never release non-native animals or seeds into the environment. People should take special care when boating that fish eggs, mussels, and algae haven't "hitched a ride" on the bottom of their hull when going from one body of water to the next.
On the proactive side, people can begin planting native species of plants in their yards. Native plant species typically thrive without a lot of attention and use considerably less water and chemical pesticides.
Oakland County Parks and Recreation's Natural Resources Stewardship staff offers workshops periodically throughout the year.