By Graham Peters – MB Conservation Science Coordinator
I’m blessed to have a creek running through my neighbourhood; a place where I can take in some of the beauty of creation without venturing too far from home. Everywhere I look there are amazing examples of the diversity of life.
A tangle of cattails becomes a refuge for birds to build their nests. What’s more, these reeds continue to serve the ecosystem by purifying the water, ensuring that it may continue to be a suitable habitat for aquatic life.
I’m sure you have also noticed that the Canada geese have started to return home. They populate the banks, claiming the sites where they will raise their young come May. The female will usually lay around five eggs which she will protect with her partner until fall, when they will repeat their flightpath from the year before with their young.
Another blink and you’ll miss it. A sign of life is the small explosion of fur scattered across the ground, evidence of a new neighbourhood resident of recent months. An owl has recently moved in and has taken advantage of the previously untapped rabbit population.
The creek is teaming with life to watch and explore. But aren’t we more than simply observers in these ecosystems? Look a little closer and you will notice that plants and animals aren’t the only ecosystem members that are interacting. People too are intimately connected with these systems. As you continue to travel along with the flow of water you can find a few sites uncharacteristically lacking in the dense clusters of cattail and willow. Look closer and you’ll recognize these clearings are impacted by a well known invader to Winnipeg; the Canada Thistle (oddly named given its European origins, if you ask me). The weeds take advantage of disturbed areas, quickly and effectively claiming them. Human meddling in ecosystems can often have unfortunate consequences; people mow down the reeds to get a better view, but open the bank to vulnerabilities.
We are not just observers but participants in the ecosystems that surround us.
However, the way we interact with our environments doesn’t need to be combative, it can be an opportunity to learn and intimately connect with our environment. These bare sites where thistle have made themselves at home are now spaces designated for native plantings; small clearings filled with dogwoods and other native species planted in an effort to restore the ecosystem.
As I walk, I notice Grant’s Old Mill, a historic site where damming was utilized to supply a source of energy for the mill. But there is also a fish ladder here, designed to allow aquatic life to travel past the dam in order to spawn. People have become collaborators in this natural cycle.
As Christians we are called to love our neighbours, but why should we limit our understanding of neighbours to the people living around us? What if we also loved our place, and the ecosystems where we find our homes, as neighbours?
Each of us has the ability to participate in ecosystem restoration. Planting native species in our yards, putting up bird and bat houses, and many other strategies allow us to be stewards of creation. We are not observers or bystanders in these ecosystems, we are participants, and we can choose what kind of impact we make. Accepting and understanding the role we play in our local ecosystems can be a great first step in preserving these incredible places in creation.