Suburban sprawl on Long Island has just about eliminated the grassland communities of plants and animals that once reigned supreme here. And the Long Island Grasslands Initiative knows it better than anyone. That's why they're hosting the first-ever Native Plant Symposim on March 11 at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead.

“Nearly every creature on the planet owes its existence to plants, the only organisms capable of capturing the sun’s energy and turning that energy into food for the rest of us," Douglas W. Tallamy, author of "Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens," writes on his website "Because animals directly and indirectly depend on plants for their food, the diversity of animals is closely linked to the diversity of plants. If you want to create ecosystems with a diversity of animal species, we first need to encourage a healthy diversity of plants.” 

The symposium will focus on the importance and benefits of using native plants in private and public lands and how local organizations are working together to promote the use of native species. Expert speakers at the event will include Tallamy, who also is professor and chairman of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and director of the Center for Managed Ecosystems at the University of Delaware; Betsy Gulotta, Biology Professor Emeritus at Nassau Community College and conservation project manager for Friends of Hempstead Plains; Myla Aronson, assistant professor of biology at Hofstra; Ed Toth, director of the Greenbelt Native Plant Center of City of New York; Laura Schwanof, vice president, senior ecologist and landscape architect with EEA, Inc.;  Bill Jacobs, senior ecologist and invasive species specialist with EEA, Inc., Calvin Ernst, President of Ernst Conservation Seeds in Meadville, PA.; and  Jim Grimes, president and owner of Fort Pond Native Plants in Montauk.

The symposium will run from 8 4:30 p.m. in the Shinnecock Building Auditorium at the Riverhead campus (121 Speonk-Riverhead Rd.). Tickets are $30, and preregistration is required by calling 631-727-2315.

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