1 out of every 3 bites of food you eat comes from the work of pollinators. Pollinators include more than just bees; there are over 200,000 species of pollinating animals, including butterflies, bats, birds, small mammals, and even some lizards. These animals perform a vital ecosystem service that benefits both humans and the environment.
Pollination occurs when pollen grains are moved from the anther (male) part of a flower to the stigma (female). This allows for the transfer of genetic material and results in the production of a seed. When pollinating animals come into contact with flowers, they are assisting in the transfer of pollen and the eventual creation of new plants. This process is essential for our planet’s survival. Flowering plants increase oxygen levels, sequester carbon, prevent soil erosion, and play an active role in the water cycle. Additionally, humans rely heavily on flowering plants. Approximately 80% of the world’s crops are dependent on pollinators and they generate over $10 billion dollars of revenue in the United States alone. Without pollinators, we would not only lose many foods, we would also lose medicine, fibers, dyes, soaps, and more.
Unfortunately, the number of pollinators is declining. Most notably, 25% of bumblebee species are declining, and over 80% of the monarch butterflies in eastern North America have been lost. The western monarch population is facing even more serious danger—only 3% of the population is left. The United States Department of Agriculture cites many reasons for this change including “habitat loss, disease, parasites, and environmental contaminants.” While many of these issues require large-scale corporate and government policy change to solve, you may be happy to know that you can help pollinators in your own backyard!
Pollinator gardens can be created in your backyard, on your porch, or in community spaces to provide food and shelter for pollinating animals suffering from habitat loss. It is simple to create, but consideration must be made for the native plants and animals in your region. The Pollinator Partnership, a North American non-profit organization, provides planting guides for residents of the United States and Canada to help individuals tailor their gardens to their specific regions. By helping pollinators, you can also help your community and encourage them to do the same. National Geographic explains that urban and suburban areas with green spaces created by pollinator gardens see a decrease in flooding and pollution and an increase in health, happiness, and even property values. You can learn more about pollinators and how you can help here.
Do you have a pollinator garden?
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