Bookwatch: Cheerleading for state’s biodiversity

Jul. 19, 2014 @ 12:19 PM

Tom Earnhardt talks about “Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt” on North Carolina Bookwatch today at noon and Thursday at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.

Tom Earnhardt is a cheerleader for natural biodiversity in North Carolina's environment from the sub-tropical at Bald Head Island south of Wilmington to the sub-arctic conditions at Mount Mitchell and the other 6000 feet-plus peaks in our state.

He emphasizes the interdependency of various plants and animals upon each other. “Diverse, abundant flora,” he says, “supports diverse, abundant fauna. Each plant and animal in the forest is part of a food web, with the success or failure of each species tied to one another.”

With the help of illustrations in his beautiful new book, “Crossroads of the Natural World: Exploring North Carolina with Tom Earnhardt,” he explains that in the Great Dismal Swamp, numerous Zebra Swallowtail butterflies “exist there only because the swamp is dotted with Pawpaw patches along the forest edges.”

Pawpaw, according to Earnhardt, is the sole host plant used by that species of butterfly. No Pawpaw, no Zebra Swallowtails.

Earnhardt shows that he is worried about this rich diversity as he explains that this interdependency and balance is in danger. More than 300 acres of natural North Carolina lands are being converted to development each day. The natural fauna and flora are ripped out, and bit-by-bit the ecosystem is being eaten away. He writes, “Unless we change the ways we manage new development, there is a growing risk that we will rapidly lose the diverse, native landscape that has helped us to find what many writers referred to as our ‘sense of place.’”

D.G. Martin hosts "North Carolina Bookwatch," which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Preview the upcoming program on UNC-MX digital channel  (Time Warner #1276 or #4.4) on Fridays at 9 p.m. For information, visit the webpage at view prior programs