Cities are such a cool place to conduct biodiversity studies. Exposing people to nature gives them the ability to respect their surroundings and communities. With the continuation of urban sprawls, it’s important to mitigate our destruction of continuous wildlife habitat. Habitat fragmentation is the number one contributor to species endangerment and extinction. So what can we do about it? To begin, we need to look past the ‘curb appeal’ of our urban and suburban landscapes. The ‘ugliest’ of plants are often the most important to species survival, especially for bees.
Why is bee habitat so important anyway?
A study on this topic was conducted in Germany and the evidence is overwhelming. Bees were found to pollinate 78-94% of wild plant populations. While not all bees are created equal, these numbers still include those for honeybees. Since honeybees are the largest bee population responsible for agriculture production, giving them reprieve and food when moving between agriculture fields will lessen the impact of habitat fragmentation. When pollinators are in balance, so are wild plants. When honeybees are removed from the equation, opportunistic insects take over. When this is done, plant diversity begins to change lending these areas to continue to be overcome with invasive species, furthering the distance between bee habitats. The edge effect takes hold and can have generational effects on all plants and animals. If an insect group can not move between habitats, they will limit themselves to the outer edges of where they reside. This reduces genetic diversity which can result in poor immune responses to parasites and pesticides.
Plant pollination syndrome also comes into play as some plants are pollinator-specific. Plants that rely on honeybees for pollination quickly disappear from their native habitat. When this happens, the pollinator diversity shifts to distinct pollinator groups without allowing for pollinator competition.
It’s all in how you view it!
To mitigate this, flower beds and naturalized areas need to be designed to support the diversity and abundance of pollinators. Plants that normally look unruly can be tamed when added to a designed landscape, becoming pleasant and functional. Looking beyond abandoned spaces in our urban areas and envisioning them as bright spots in our communities does more than creating an esthetically pleasing experience. Exposure to nature improves mental and physical well-being. During times such as the Covid-19 pandemic, isolation can contribute negatively to these areas. All it takes is a shovel and some seeds! The best part, pollinator habitat will improve and so will our agriculture production. Happy people and better food, what more could we ask for from such a tiny being?
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