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Conservation Group Advises Not to Rake Leaves

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Fall Leaves Crop

If you were looking for an excuse not to rake the leaves in your yard this year, then the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is happy to give you one. Their advice is to leave the rake in the shed and the leaves on the ground. It’s not about laziness, it’s about being a conscientious environmentalist.

The not-for-profit land conservation organization says leaving fallen leaves in your yard is a small act of nature conservation that can support backyard biodiversity in many ways. While some butterflies travel to warmer destinations, many native insects, including pollinators, and other backyard wildlife hibernate over the winter and can use a little neighbourly help.

Dan Kraus, NCC’s senior conservation biologist, says leaves can provide important habitat for many species.

“Backyard animals, such as toads, frogs and many pollinators, once lived in forests and have adapted to hibernate under leaves,” says Kraus. “The leaves provide an insulating blanket that can help protect these animals from the cold and temperature fluctuations during the winter.”

Another benefit of not raking your leaves is soil improvement. Kraus points out that as leaves break down, they also provide a natural mulch, which helps enrich the soil. Thick piles of leaves can impact the growth of grass and other plants come spring, but leaving a light covering can improve the health of our gardens and lawns.

As the leaves break down, some of their carbon also gets stored in the soil.

“While it’s great for cities to provide collection programs to compost leaves, the most energy-efficient solution is to allow nature to do its thing and for the leaves to naturally break down in your yard,” says Kraus, who adds that this advice doesn’t only apply to leaves. “Plant stalks and dead branches also provide habitat for many species of insects. By cleaning up our yards and gardens entirely, we may be removing important wintering habitats for native wildlife in our communities.”

Kraus says migratory and resident birds can also benefit from our gardens during the winter. Leftover fruits and seeds are an important food source for these animals.

With about 80 per cent of Canadians now living in towns and cities, backyard biodiversity is becoming increasingly important.

“One of the biggest opportunities to improve the health of nature in urban areas is through the collective action we can all take in our yards,” says Kraus.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is the nation’s leading not-for-profit, private land conservation organization, working to protect our most important natural areas and the species they sustain. Since 1962, NCC and its partners have helped to protect 14 million hectares (35 million acres), coast to coast to coast. In Manitoba, they have conserved and protected more than 71,161 hectares across nine natural areas critical to the province’s biodiversity.

For more information

www.natureconservancy.ca

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