Earth is losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. There’s been an average 60 percent decline in mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians globally since 1970, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2018. While climate change and pollution are contributors, the number one driving force behind the catastrophic decline in species is habitat loss. Habitat is defined as the natural home of plants and animals.
When most people think of biodiversity, they think of large undisturbed habitats like the rain forests of the Amazon or the temperate forests of Alaska. What you may not know is that we have rich biodiversity here too. One of the most, if not the most, biodiverse areas left in Nassau County is in the Beaver Brook watershed located in our own backyard!
Beaver Brook flows through Shu Swamp and is home to brown trout, sticklebacks and the rare American brook lamprey. The shallow pond provides mud flats for shore birds and the tall trees habitat for nesting great horned owls and wood ducks. Birds like the ruby-throated hummingbird and the winter wren are joined by harvester and Appalachian brown butterflies in making this area their home. Brook trout breed in Beaver Brook and mammals like the river otter, American mink and muskrat can be spotted there too.
The swamp’s high-quality environment hosts an amazing array of ephemeral spring flowers, such as trout lily, marsh marigold, dwarf ginseng and spring beauty. An abundance of ferns as well as rare plants, such as the shrub hearts-a-bustin’, found nowhere else in New York State, can be found there. Plants like turtlehead, dog and primrose violets as well as the state endangered American strawberry bush can be found there, along with noteworthy or rare plants like squawroot, hops, red trillium, pinesap, umbrella and sweet bay magnolia and the ancient tupelo.
It is no accident that both plants and animals have been able to survive and thrive in this natural environment. First, through the foresight and hard work of a group of citizens who formed the North Shore Wildlife Sanctuary, the 60 acres which is now called the Charles T. Church Shu Swamp Preserve were protected in 1963. More recently in an effort to prevent further fragmentation, the surrounding areas comprised of the adjoining Humes and Smithers properties were bought by the Land Alliance and Nassau County, respectively, to ensure this important habitat remain intact.
And, the Shu Swamp conservation area is just one of many protected habitats in our community. Whether it be the sweetgum trees at the Hope Goddard Iselin preserve, brimming with orange, yellow and burgundy leaves, or the great American chestnut tree at Fox Hollow, our North Shore habitat is not only beautiful but critical to the many species whose lives depend on the protection of these lands.
To ensure a sustainable future for all living things, we urgently need to curb the loss of natural habitat and remember that protecting nature also helps protect people. Every acre of open space lost to development is another acre of habitat lost forever.
Please contact the Land Alliance at 516-922-1028 if you are interested in protecting your land for the plants and animals.