Graveyards are surprising hotspots for biodiversity

Two weeks after the spring equinox, farmers in China’s Hebei province pay a visit to deceased loved ones in tiny graveyards among the vast wheat fields to mark Qingming Jie, an annual festival for remembering ancestors. After burnt offerings turn to ash and the incense smoke clears, these private family graveyards are left largely undisturbed until next year, quietly allowing nature to take its course.

It turns out that such graveyards in crop fields are more than peaceful places for people to pay their respects; they also function as miniature botanical preserves, a new study finds. Even the tiniest burial sites support a diverse array of native plants, helping to conserve patches of relatively untouched habitat in the study area—one of the most heavily farmed regions in China.

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