Biodiversity in Your Backyard

How many species of animals do you think live in your backyard? What about in your town, city, or state? There are hundreds and even thousands of species of plants and animals right in your backyard. They’re waiting to be discovered!

Lucky for you, we love the plants and animals that call the US South their home. We’re so excited to share these resources on backyard biodiversity. You can learn all about the native trees and animals of this region.

Frequently asked questions about biodiversity

Why is backyard biodiversity important?

Having a wide variety of native species in our local ecosystem can do things like:

  • Reduce the impact of climate change
  • Reduce extinction risk
  • Improve air quality and water quality for human health
  • Provide learning opportunities in our local environment and even in our own backyards
  • Support a vibrant food web for birds, bats, and bees
  • Keep other species that cause disease – like mosquitoes and ticks – under control

In scientific terms, biodiversity is known as a “supporting” ecosystem service, because having great biodiversity improves everything else around us. The number of native plants and animals that we have around us improves the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.

acorns are the easiest way to identify oak trees backyard biodiversity

How much biodiversity is in the United States?

We’ve identified more than 200,000 native species in the United States, but there are also many introduced and invasive species in our country as well. A native species is a plant or animal that evolved here. An introduced species is any species that was brought here from a different continent but doesn’t cause any ecological problems. Finally, an invasive species is a plant or animal that was introduced and now causes ecological problems like habitat loss or other species’ declines. Invasive species are a huge problem in this country and across the world.

Where in the US has the most biodiversity?

The top four states with exceptional biodiversity are California, Hawaii, Texas, and Alabama, so half of those biodiversity-rich states are in the South. However, the US South is so full of biodiversity that it’s been identified as a priority by several scientists from various universities, including Florida International University, NCSU, Duke University, and Michigan State University.

biodiversity mapping - US synthesized priorities
This map shows where the most diversity is in wildlife. For example, areas of red, like the panhandle of Florida, are very high diversity, whereas areas in blue have lower numbers of species. Maps courtesy of BiodiversityMapping.org with credit to BirdLife International, IUCN, NatureServe, and USGS  for their species range map data contribution.

Explore Biodiversity In The US South

So many different plants and animals contribute to biodiversity in the US South. These species collectively create habitats, host plants, and provide food sources for many other living organisms in the South.

Biodiversity of Native Plants, Shrubs, Trees, and Fungi

Native plants are critical to supporting different species in our forests, fields, and farms across the US South. Native plants can even help us avoid the application of chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides on the food that we eat or the plants and trees that we grow. There are a surprising number of native trees in the US – 186 species with up to 74 occurring in and around the panhandle of Florida.

tree species diversity in the US
Maps courtesy of BiodiversityMapping.org with credit to BirdLife International, IUCN, NatureServe, and USGS  for their species range map data contribution.

If you’re curious about trees, shrubs, plants, and fungi, we’ve got some great resources for you:

Wildlife Biodiversity: Mammals, Reptiles, Amphibians, Birds, and Bugs

If you’re curious about mammals, creepy crawlies, and everything in between: this is the place for you. There’s a huge diversity of insects and butterflies in ecosystems across the United States. We need bees and butterflies to serve as pollinators for our food and flower crops. They become food for the birds, reptiles, and amphibians that live in habitats across the US, too!

From predators to prey, from frogs to foxes, we’ve got some great resources for you:

Celebrate Biodiversity Across All Seasons

As the year progresses, you can find different species in your area. Even with climate change and habitat loss, there’s a wide variety of wild species that you can find right in your garden or backyard. Learn about the plants and animals that are most popular in autumn, around Halloween, in the early spring, and more!

Find Out How We’re Working To Save Endangered Habitats and Species In The South

With increasing pressures on US forests, nature is at risk. Threatened species, dead trees, declines in fish species, and more all indicate that our wildlife is at risk. Biodiversity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and this wildlife needs us to play critical roles in their preservation.

From fresh water to forests, we hope that you’ll join us as we explore the gardens, backyards, and other habitats that make up homes for wildlife across the US and the world.

All Biodiversity In Your Backyard Articles

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