Ecotourism On Your Doorstep

Ecotourism On Your Doorstep

I live in one of the 36 biodiversity hotspots (#36, actually), and if we’re friends, there’s a good chance you do too. The North American Coastal Plain, which stretches from northern Mexico all the way up to southeastern Massachusetts, has 1,816 unique endemic plant species including the venus fly trap, 51 endemic bird species, 114 endemic mammal species, 57 endemic amphibian species, and 51 endemic freshwater fish species. These endemic species can only be found in this ecosystem. It houses the largest estuary in North America. 85.5 % of the hotspot’s land area has experienced land-use conversion to agriculture or urbanization. Historically, much of the coastal plain was open woodland, savannah and scrubland. These ecosystems have a natural fire regime that requires burning every 1-3 years. A common misconception is that Indigenous Americans imposed this on the ecosystems, but we’ve come to understand that much of the diversity is dependent on these fire regimes; they are natural. Another common misconception is that because of the extent of land conversion and the dominance of familiar human- associated species, it is not very biodiverse. In fact, these ecosystems can have as many as 50 plant species per 1 square meter plot. Few other ecosystems can boast that fine-scale biodiversity. It’s easy to think the grass is greener elsewhere if we never take the time to play in our own grass. If you are planning some eco-tourism, consider exploring our local biodiversity. You might just fall in love with where you live

Written by Dietrich Epp Schmidt

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