New England

January, 2003
Regional Report

Local Buzz

Measuring the Benefits of Biodiversity
Once again, scientists are "proving" what many gardeners and outdoors enthusiasts have intuited all along: The preservation of natural areas is vital, not only for providing beauty and recreation for humans, but also for maintaining healthy ecosystems and biodiversity that provide other, less obvious, benefits.

Scientists call these benefits "ecosystem services." One example is pollination of food crops by native pollinators, another example is pest control by native birds. Scientists are now beginning to quantify these benefits and put a monetary value on them. According to an e-newsletter published by Science magazine,

"...(scientists) compared the efficacy of bee pollination of watermelon in intensive and organic farms in California, which varied in their proximity to bee habitat (woodland and
chaparral). Only in the organic farms close to native habitat were full pollination services (in terms of maximized fruit production) achieved by native bees; in organic farms far from native habitat, and in all intensive
farms, supplementary pollination by managed, introduced honeybees was necessary to improve fruit yields."

Scientific studies such as these help the argument that conservation of ecosystems and biological diversity isn't at odds with other forms of land use, such as agriculture, but rather can be economically advantageous.

From Editors' Choice: Highlights of the recent literature
SCIENCE, Volume 298, Issue 5602, Breakthrough of the Year
dated December 20, 2002.

Web Finds

University of Illinois Extension Hort Corner
Visit the University of Illinois Extension's Hort Corner Web site for all sorts of gardening information, tips, and fun facts. Get tips on Forcing Branches Indoors or explore the ins and outs of Water Gardening, for example.

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