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Here's one way to help declining wildlife species

A new study found global wildlife declined by more than two-thirds between 1970 and 2018. The report says people need to act to reverse the trend.

A new study from the WWF, the former World Wildlife Fund, and the Zoological Society of London released last week found monitored wildlife populations across the globe have plunged an average of 69 percent in just under 50 years. According to the 2022 Living Planet Report, the decline in North America isn’t as steep, but at 20 percent it’s still a serious problem people must address.

What can individuals do to reverse the trend?

Ryan Koziatek is the stewardship director at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. On Thursday, he was cutting down invasive autumn olive and tree of heaven on his own property. Removing invasive species and adding native plants like oak trees, a host plant for hundreds of animal species, is something he said anyone with a yard can do to help local wildlife thrive. And Koziatek said, you can help without getting overwhelmed.

“Letting some of your lawn go and encouraging natives in those spaces,” Koziatek said. “You don't want to bite off too much and, you know, take on too much that actually might stress you out. Because the whole point of becoming involved in backyard habitats and stuff like that is finding a lot of enjoyment.”

No project is too small, according to Koziatek.

“Overall, my backyard, small impact. The more we have this conversation, the more people do it, bigger impact.”

He said a good place to start is to learn to distinguish native plants from non-native and invasive plants. Koziatek recommended joining a local nature or sustainability group and investing in a wildflower book with photos.

“I never would consider myself one to have carried a wildflower book with me, but now I don't really leave home without it,” he said.

Leona Larson (Gould-McElhone) was a complaint investigator with the Detroit Consumer Affairs Department when she started her media career producing and co-hosting Consumer Conversation with Esther Shapiro for WXYT-Radio in Detroit while freelancing at The Detroit News and other local newspapers. Leona joined WDIV-TV in Detroit as a special projects' producer and later, as an investigative producer. She spent several years teaching journalism for the School of Communications at Western Michigan University. Leona prefers to use her middle name on air because it's shorter and easier to pronounce.