Celebrate Biodiversity in King County

What do English ivy, salmon, and salal have in common? They all affect biodiversity in King County in important ways!

Sunday, May 22, is the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB), as proclaimed by the United Nations. The theme for this year is Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods. It honors the fact that biodiversity is essential to peoples’ livelihoods in all ways, including jobs within agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, among others.
What is biodiversity? The book Precious Heritage: the Status of Biodiversity in the United States give the following definition: “Biodiversity is composed of species, the genes they contain, the communities and ecosystems they form, and the processes that connect them.”

Why is biodiversity important? Biodiversity increases ecosystem productivity. For example, the greater the number of plant species, the great variety of crops. More species diversity means healthier ecosystems which means a greater ability to resist disease and survive disaster. All of human life ultimately depends on biodiversity.

If you could step back in time about 150 years, you would see that almost all of the developed areas in King County were covered with either forest or wetland. Much of downtown Seattle was a big estuary. Everything was wildlife habitat! Today, the urban environments are getting larger, so people, animals, and plants continually need to find ways to live together. We have many species in King County, including about 220 species of breeding and non-breeding birds, between 70 and 80 mammal species, about 70 species of fish in freshwater, and an amazing 1,249 species of identified plants.

In celebration of International Day of Biodiversity, take a walk in your neighborhood and explore the native species near you. The King County Native Plant Guide is a fun resource full of photos you can match to what you discover. Here are some ideas of what to look for on your personal scavenger hunt:
Native plants

  • Salal
  • Oregon grape
  • Bald hip rose
  • Snowberry
  • Lady fern
  • Oceanspray
  • Western red cedar


  • American robin
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • White-throated sparrow
  • Northern flicker
  • Eartern gray squirrel (introduced from the Eastern U.S.)
  • Beavers
  • Northwestern garter snake

Unfortunately, there are many invasive species in King County that take over land and water space. Invasive species, such as English ivy and gold fish, are typically non-native plants or animals that are highly competitive with native species, such as salal and salmon, and are often difficult to control or eliminate. This page discusses in more detail how invasive species affect biodiversity.

Middle and high school teachers can arrange for a classroom workshop on biodiversity for their students. The interactive workshop answers the questions, “What is biodiversity and why is it important for survival on Earth? How do our shopping and waste disposal choices affect biodiversity?” Students actively engage in a discussion of real-world issues such as habitat protection, population growth, and climate change.

King County hosts many work parties and events where you can help maintain our local biodiversity. As the weather turns warmer, find ways to get outside and volunteer!