What Does it Mean to be Rich?

Nature Academy

In ecology jargon, “species richness” is a term we use to describe a habitat that teems with many plant and animal species. While biking the Shaker Trace Trail at Miami Whitewater Forest with my family last weekend, we were watching tree swallows swooping in amongst a large group of dragonflies darting over the prairie. Were the swallows trying to pick off the dragonflies, or were they both preying on insects that were too small for us to see?

Great places like the prairie at Miami Whitewater Forest are rich with plants and animals that are connected to each other and woven tightly, like a tapestry. The picture that we can see is held together by thousands of threads that we cannot see. Each thread contributes to the color and strength of the fabric. From the human point of view, we can see summer hues of amber and gold, swaying in the breeze. Puffy clouds layered on the blue sky of late summer. More difficult to see with the naked eye are multiple strata of insects that fly in a frenzy. Below the surface, soil fungi and bacteria help plants utilize the soil nutrients. The system as a whole is rich and connected in ways that we still don’t fully understand or appreciate.


Places like this also bring richness to our lives. We are all very fortunate to live in a place where we can enjoy all that the city has to offer, as well as go to a Great Park that recharges us by immersing ourselves in natural beauty. In doing so, our families build memories that become the stories they will tell their children. Someday, I hope the tapestry of stories from my daughter’s childhood glimmer with the gold and amber threads of that rich September day at Miami Whitewater Forest.

Bret Henninger, Natural Resource Manager