We in Beverly Shores are fortunate to live in a beautiful woodland environment surrounded by the Inland Marsh to the south and Lake Michigan to the north. We have more biodiversity in our area than can be found just about anywhere else in the U.S. We have arctic species that are a legacy of the glaciers that dug Lake Michigan, as well as plants from the south and west, like wild orchids and prickly pear cactus.
National Park Service data (available here) show our incredible biodiversity compared to other well-known parks. The NPS measures species by “species richness”, a count of the number of total number of species present. The table below lists species richness for vascular plants at a number of national parks. The number for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is slightly below that for the much larger Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and Yosemite parks, but greater than that for Yellowstone. The table also includes comparisons to other water's edge parks on the ocean coasts (Point Reyes, Acadia) and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Even though these units are each much larger than IDNL, they have significantly fewer plant species. The last column of the table provides a measure of species diversity by dividing species richness by park acreage. The Indiana Dunes has no biodiversity peer in this measure.
|Great Smoky Mountains||1618||521,490||0.3|
|Point Reyes N. Seashore||882||71,068||1.2|
|Sleeping Bear Dunes NL||1138||71,198||1.6|
But the biodiversity that helps make Beverly Shores and the Indiana Dunes such a special place to live faces two types of threats. One problem is deer overpopulation, a central focus of ERG's efforts. As the Nature Conservancy describes the problem:
White-tailed deer likely impact every landscape east of the Mississippi River. The damage has been insidious—both slow moving and cumulative. Unfortunately, the harm is often overlooked, or worse, accepted as somehow “natural.” In our opinion, no other threat to forested habitats is greater at this point in time—not lack of fire, not habitat conversion, not climate change.
Invasive species are a second major threat to biodiversity. The threat posed to the Indiana dunes is especially great, precisely because of their small size. Summarizing a meta-analysis of the effects of invasive plants, a Science Daily blog post asks: Are invasive plants a threat to native biodiversity? It depends on the spatial scale. The researchers found that invasive plant species very often can cause extirpation of native plant species in smaller scale areas.
ERG is fighting invasive plants throughout our small community. We have mounted a major effort to control the invasive Tree-of-Heaven, eliminating thousands of specimens. We have cooperated with the National Park Service to attack invasives along our lakefront. We have a demonstration garden showing native plants that can be used instead of invasives. Explore the links below to review what we are doing and what you can do to combat the menace that invasive plants pose.