“Nature abhors a monoculture.” It’s a line that I have heard Will Harris of White Oak Pastures use several times. Will has an incredible story, and you can read an awesome version of it on The Bitter Southerner’s site, but for now I want to focus on his quote.
Factually, Will is correct. Monocultures, meaning ecosystems entirely oriented around a single species, do not exist in nature. They are a human invention rooted in the dawn of agriculture 12,000 years ago, but modernized and taken to extremes with the recent advent of industrial agriculture. Picture a field of corn in the Midwest that extends as far as the eye can see. Literally, miles and miles of corn, and only corn. To Mother Nature, that would be super weird.
Our monocultures have been really good at doing exactly what they are designed to do – produce crops we can use in the short term (whether food or materials like lumber). But that’s not nature’s goal. Ecosystems instead optimize for diversity, which then yields long-term resilience in the form of healthy soils, abundant and varied food sources for all resident species, natural limits to excessive population growth, and opportunities for inter-species collaboration. They meet the needs of both the current generation of life forms as well as the needs of future generations. In other words, nature multi-tasks, while humans and their monocultures do not.