We are just beginning to understand the complex interdependence of animals and native vegetation. Native plants are the foundation of the natural food web. It all begins with something that eats native plants, and the sharp decline of native plants over the last 200 years has caused an equally dramatic reduction in the animal community that we are just starting to recognize and tabulate. Studies are showing alarming declines in insect, bird and other natural populations that are unsustainable.
Most insects are specialists. Native plants have developed a special relationship with insects that eat them and pollinate them. This relationship developed over many years as they evolved together (co-evolution). Insects that eat plants (herbivores) generally only eat a special group of plants with which they have co-evolved. When non-native plants are introduced to an area many insects can’t digest the non-native plants or don’t recognize these plants as a food source (Tallamy 2007)
Louisiana is part of the Mississippi Flyway, which is a primary migration corridor for birds flying from their breeding grounds in the north as far as Canada to wintering grounds in the south as far as Central and South America. Migrating birds arrive in Louisiana stressed, hungry, and searching for food. All birds eat insects when high protein sources are needed for breeding and raising young, but many of our migrants will solely feed on insect protein. Native plants are crucial to support the much-needed insects. Many of our native plants also provide important food sources with fruits and seeds.