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Create & Protect Wildlife Habitat

Biodiversity (the number and variety of life forms) is crucial to the health and resiliency of any ecosystem and its inhabitants. However, biodiversity frequently suffers as urban development replaces native habitat. This doesn’t need to be the case. Residential and commercial landscapes can be designed to provide food, water, and shelter to encourage and protect native wildlife by

Diversify plantings

A diverse landscape provides habitat for wildlife. In addition a diverse landscape resists pests and diseases better than those with little diversity. Provide a wide variety of plants:

  • annuals, biennials and perennials
  • different sizes, shapes, colors, textures, bloom times, canopy levels, and root zones
  • evergreens and deciduous
  • fruit and berry bearing

Also consider:

  • starting with a trial zone and increasing the diversity over time
  • converting a lawn (or part of a lawn) that no one uses with a diverse border
  • avoid planting invasive species since they often destroy habitat.
  • remove invasive weeds
Local wildlife is well-adapted to California natives
(like this salvia).

Choose California natives first

Local wildlife is well-adapted to local native plants. Therefore it’s best to choose them first. Other California native plants that match the microclimate are also good choices. Another benefits of native plants is that they require less water, fertilizers, and maintenance than non-natives. When planting natives:

  • select a variety of species that match the microclimate of the site
  • group flowering species in dense stands of at least 16 square feet (rather than planting isolated single plants) to attract native pollinators
  • let some plants go to seed for food for wildlife

Provide water & shelter

Provide nesting sites, shelter, and clean fresh water to encourage wildlife. But be careful not to create breeding sites for mosquitoes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Put in a birdbath — but be sure to change the water at least every few days
  • Include a pond or water feature, with circulating water and/or fish (solar powered pumps will reduce energy consumption)
  • Including rockwalls and boulders as design elements will also provide habitat
  • Install birdhouses in secure locations
  • Consider leaving wood materials or downed trees in place if they don’t threaten structures or parking areas or create a fire hazard

Eliminate the use of pesticides

Pesticides kill not only the targeted pest species, but also the beneficial organisms that keep pests under control. They are also harmful to the native wildlife.

  • use pesticides sparingly and as a last resort
  • implement good integrated pest management practices (IPM)
  • read the label on every pesticide (including naturally derived pesticides) for toxicity to non-target organisms

Conserve or restore natural areas & wildlife corridors

Careful site planning, especially for new development along the urban-wild interface, is important for protecting biodiversity. Natural areas and corridors increase habitat and range, supporting a diversity of organisms and allowing them to travel safely between sites.

  • become familiar with local open space requirements
  • limit earthwork and clearing of vegetation
  • on developed sites, restore open space by planting native vegetation
  • build in wildlife corridors adjacent to open spaces, wild lands, and creeks
  • consider corridors when building roads and fencing

The Seven Principles of
River-Friendly Landscaping

Click on any section to learn more

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Here are some more in depth articles on specific RFL topics that you might find of interest:

Contest Winner

RFL Inspiration Garden

RFL Examples

Rain Gardens

Mulch, Grasscycling, and Compost

Get Mulching

Fertilize Naturally — Is Feeding Frenzy Really Needed?

Plant Trees, Save Energy!

Right Plant, Right Place!

Plant Selection

Plant Communities

Take Action to Save Water Outdoors…

Lawn Care: How Green is Your Grass?

Rethink Your Lawn

Pests Bugging You?

River-Friendly Pest Control

Managing Common Pests

Good Bugs

Interview about RFL (MP3)

Choose California natives first

Don't Blow It!

Reducing Outdoor Asthma Triggers


Watch the YouTube video
"Slow the Flow - Make Your Landscape Act Like a Sponge"
to learn about the importance of landscaping to stormwater quality.