Everything is Connected

“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and  over it.” —Goethe

Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth and their interactions.   It’s a complex yet crucial system that supplies the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.  Our lives depend on a vast variety of living organisms, and yet humans are destroying the habitats these creatures need to survive.   As we lose ever more species to extinction, diminishing the world’s wildlife, our own future becomes increasingly precarious.  

Our continuous urban sprawl and population growth has pushed nature into smaller and more fragmented spaces.  Our once beautiful prairie is being replaced with turf grass, non-native trees, shrubs and perennials that provide little nourishment to the creatures that share our land.   Forest preserves do provide habitat, but their locations are too fragmented to support complete biodiversity  These factors threaten the very intricate food web upon which all creatures, including us, rely.  This is why homeowners and municipalities must use their property in a more nature-friendly way.   Fremont Township is doing its part to demonstrate how human needs and nature can co-exist by replacing turf with native grasses and flowers, attracting pollinators and beneficial insects for our organic garden, and planting native trees and shrubs to feed birds. 

In 2018, we seeded the stormwater detention area behind this sign with wet prairie grasses and flowers to reduce our mowing, provide habitat for birds and beneficial insects, and to reduce the amount of stormwater that drains from our property.   We added native plants in our landscaping to provide continuous food sources for native bees, specifically the endangered Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee, from the early spring ephemerals to the fall-flowering asters and goldenrod.  Along the west boundary of our property, we added shrubs and trees that provide shelter for birds and insects, as well as food sources for many creatures, including us! 


At one time much of this area was covered in wetlands and wet prairies, which slowed the flow of water through our ecosystem. As we build more impermeable surfaces, like parking lots, roads, and rooftops, rainwater floods our drainage systems of storm sewers, ditches, and creeks.  These heavy flows erode the soil, muddying our lakes and rivers.   The resulting sediment settles out, disrupting aquatic habitats.     

Native plants filter the water and reduce the pollutants flowing downstream, such as automobile oil, heavy metals, and fertilizer nutrients.   The phosphorus and nitrogen in fertilizers can generate excessive algae growth in lakes and oceans.  This process called eutrophication kills aquatic life.    

Proper selection of native plants sustain both dry areas that thrive without watering (see examples on our garden’s green roof), as well as plantings that thrive in wet areas like our rain garden and wet prairie. Native plant landscapes absorb more water than shallow-rooted plants, drawing the water deep into the soil to recharge our aquifers.


  • Plant native plant borders around creeks, streams, and lakes 
  • Reduce or eliminate use of phosphorus fertilizers
  • Apply fertilizers at the best time to reduce run-off—in the spring/fall when plant growth is at maximum
  • Install rain gardens to reduce stormwater run-off
  • Reduce salt usage in winter; chloride levels are cumulative and threaten our lake water and aquifers


The Midwest is renown for having the some of the best soil in the world!  Not only did the glaciers deliver a wide array of minerals, in the form of glacial till, to northeastern Illinois, but deep-rooted prairie plants that evolved after the glacial period created nutrient-rich, organic soil.   In healthy soils, a vast network of underground fungi and bacteria work synergistically with plants’ roots.  These microbes release digestive enzymes that break down dead plant and animal material in the soil and make nutrients available to other living things.   Carbon is sequestered in the soil during this process.   

Native plants are so deep-rooted that they reach down 15-20 feet into the soil!  In fact, you can’t see 70% of a prairie because it exists in its roots underground.  Their long roots provide access to nutrients, such that they don’t require fertilizers.   These dense root systems provide excellent erosion control along waterways that would otherwise wash away in heavy rainfalls.   


  • Use organic lawn care products that encourage healthy microbial life in soils
  • Reduce use of herbicides, pesticides and fungicides
  • Replace sod with native plants
  • Use no-till farming practices to sequester carbon


Studies show we humans benefit from being in nature.   A recent 30-year study concluded that children who grow up in natural environments, with greenery outside their windows, have a much lower risk of developing psychiatric disorders.   Walking in the forest is known to lower stress, reduce blood pressure, and boost immune system.    Why shouldn’t we create our own little, backyard nature oasis to provide restorative healing daily?

In addition to the beauty of wildflowers, native plants offer us medicinal and nutritional value.  Echinacea (purple coneflower) and elderberry are a well-known immune system boosters. For example, we can simmer elderberries to make a syrup to help during cold/flu season.   Jewelweed, a wetland native, is a natural antidote to poison ivy.  Hazelnuts, currants, and serviceberries are native, ornamental shrubs that can accentuate our residential landscapes and provide nuts and berries for birds and us.  


  • Learn about the importance of biodiversity
  • Choose native plant species over non-native 
  • Find harmonious balance between nature and development 

Beneficial Insects

Globally each year, pollinators contribute $217 billion worth of crop production.   More than 75% of all flowering plants, including many fruits, nuts,  and vegetables depend on pollinators.  Native pollinators depend on specific plants to complete their life cycle.   Native plants and insects have evolved together over millions of years.  Many native insects are specialists, which means they have adapted the ability to consume very particular plants.  A common example is the Monarch butterfly whose larvae eat milkweed plants.   In the absence of milkweed, Monarch larvae cannot survive.  

Many of the plants purchased for landscapes have been imported from other countries.   Our native insects do not find these plants edible because they haven’t developed the ability to digest them.   Sadly we are filling our yards and landscapes with food deserts, unable to support our local ecosystems. Turf grass has become the largest irrigated crop in our country, but it provides little benefit to us or nature.  An oak tree, conversely, supports 534 species of moths and butterflies, whose larvae are a necessary food source for birds.   Some native flower species, such as asters and goldenrods, can support over 100 species!   


  • Plant a variety of natives to provide a food source from spring through fall 
  • Leave stems untouched fall through spring for insects who overwinter in them
  • Leave leaf litter in areas of your yard to provide shelter for beneficial insects 
  • Reduce or eliminate the use of insecticides 

Fremont Township was assisted with its environmental campus in part by funding from the ComEd Openlands Green Region program.  Special thanks to Fremont Middle School 2018 six graders and Eubanks Environmental.