Using Native Plants to Combat Climate Change

Boone Creek, McHenry after 8″ of Snowfall


By:  Sarah Voska    (November 2018)

Record snowfall in November, the National Climate Assessment released on Black Friday, and next week’s opening of COP24- the UN’s annual climate change meeting: What Timing! Man-made Climate Change is already impacting communities across the country and world. The Illinois state climatologist stated that the primary impact of climate change on the Midwest would be on water availability: we are more likely to face drought and flooding than ever before. Fortunately, we still have time to reduce our carbon footprints and implement mitigation strategies. One way to do that is by planting a native landscape at your office, corporate center, home or community common areas.

Natural landscaping and ecosystem restoration offers numerous benefits in mitigating climate change. Native plants in Illinois are specially adapted to the soil and climatic conditions of our area. These plants have long roots that secure the soil from erosion during heavy rains. These long roots also help pull rainwater down into the groundwater aquifers where we source our drinking water. As the water passes over the long roots, they absorb nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and can even absorb pollutants such as heavy metals or inorganic chemicals. Native plants such as the Eastern Redbud tree and the common sunflower have both been studied for their soil and water remediation benefits. The microbes that live in the soil are able to convert the toxic compounds into milder ones, protecting our water supply!

Not only do the roots filter the water as it drains through the soil, it also slows down and absorbs stormwater when heavy rainfall might otherwise cause flooding. Living and working between the Des Plaines and the Fox River, increased flooding is something to be worried about in the face of climate change, and something we certainly experienced this summer.

Of course, plants need carbon dioxide to breathe. Through photosynthesis, they convert carbon dioxide into oxygen that we can breathe. By cleaning our air, plants play a vital step in protecting air quality. In fact, the world’s plants are the biggest carbon sinks. By reforesting and replanting our landscapes, we can keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Native plants can improve the health of the planet and protect your home from flooding. Learn more about using native plants to build, restore, & maintain natural habitats at Bluestem Ecological Services
Bluestem Ecological Services is a sustainable company that builds, restores and maintains native ecosystems. Our goal is to bring elements of the original Midwest landscape back to its natural state.

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