We could be living alongside box turtles and salamanders
BOSTON—If you’re feeling lazy about leaves piling up on your property, experts say you shouldn’t. Leaving those leaves can help the environment as well as wildlife, according to conservation groups.
David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. He said letting some leaves stay on the ground is cost effective, since they become a natural fertilizer. But also, leaves in the trash are a big problem.
“Leaves, according to the EPA, make up about 13% of the solid waste that ends up in our landfills,” Mizejewski said. “That’s organic waste, which is what leaves are, it’s organic material. As that breaks inside the landfill, it actually releases methane.”
Mizejewski added methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. He thinks the American habit of raking and leaf blowing is tied to the start of suburbia and lawns. Instead, Mizejewski recommends cultivating gardens with more natural plants and leaf litter, and less lawn space, which also helps wildlife.
Mizejewski noted most lawns act as dead space, and aren’t great for wildlife. This is part of why certain butterfly and songbird populations are facing steep decline. But leaving more leaves on the ground provides food and shelter for birds, butterflies and other species.
“Lots of animals actually live in the leaf litter year round,” he said. “Things like toads or box turtles or salamanders – really, really cool animals can happily coexist with us right in our own yards and gardens if we just give them a little bit of space.”
Some gardeners caution while leaving some leaves on the ground is beneficial, it may be worthwhile to shred certain leaves that would otherwise take a long time to decompose.
For more information, visit nwf.org.