Michele, a self-proclaimed medium green, combines her enthusiasm for communicating about the green industry, with a deep appreciation for all things gardening. Her blogs provide information from the homeowner’s perspective, moving between what works now and what the future might hold.
I previously wrote about permaculture, and similar to permaculture, biomimicry looks to nature for inspiration in order to solve our problems. Permaculture’s goal is to enrich the biosphere (the global sum of all ecosystems) with permanently sustainable methods of agriculture, while biomimicry imitates nature’s best practices.
Why is biomimicry important? According to Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature, “Having reached the limits of nature’s tolerance, we are finally shopping for answers to the question, ‘How can we live on this home planet without destroying it?’”
Biomimicry is one answer to this question.
Biomimicry can be approached in two ways, biology-to-design and design-to-biology. In biology-to-design, humans copy a biological phenomenon that will solve a human problem. For example, scientists are experimenting using the pump-like design of jellyfish movement to one day help save patients with heart disease.
In the design-to-biology approach, the human presents the design challenge, and then finds the organism or ecosystem that best solves this problem. An example of this approach is Olympic swimmers wearing sharkskin-inspired swimsuits for less water resistance.
When looking deeper into biomimicry, there are three levels according to Benyus - mimicking natural form, mimicking natural process and mimicking natural ecosystems. Benyus said achieving all three levels of biomimicry would create conditions conducive to life. Let’s take a look at biomimicry in the garden using these three levels.
Growing a native plant garden, a garden with plants indigenous or naturalized to a given area, is mimicking of natural form ‑ prairies. Native plants are good at holding soil, resisting pests and weeds, and reseeding, all without our help.
When gardeners grow native blueberries or raspberries in their garden they are mimicking natural process. Using perennial plants that provide food eliminates the need to replant every year and the plant returns nutrients to the soil which is used for next season’s berries.
To mimic a natural ecosystem, gardeners need to stop using chemicals to address gardening problems and instead invite pollinators such as bees, birds and butterflies to the garden to create a prairie-like setting that provides food for the entire ecosystem.
Applying biomimicry to your garden isn’t hard. The hard part is applying it on a global level to save native ecosystems that aren’t already damaged to the point of endangerment.
Watch next week for my next article on vertical farming in Buffalo. And feel free to share other examples of biomimicry you see around Western New York.