Pollinators, Pollinator Conservation, and Food Security
By: Jennifer A. Lotz, Pollinator Partnership Canada
Our planet, our home is experiencing unprecedented, global change. Human activities are directly affecting the functioning of ecosystems and challenging the preservation of global biodiversity. So why does all of this really matter, you may ask? Loss of ecosystem resilience, biodiversity loss, and climate change all pose risks to the provision of ecosystem services, which provide the basis for every human life on this planet.
Of one of these essential ecosystem services is pollination; from an anthropocentric perspective, humans rely on thousands of different species, mostly insects, to provide this service. All of the same threats that are affecting ecosystem resilience and biodiversity are having just as great of an impact on these small and important, but often overlooked creatures. So, why do pollinators deserve the limelight? About one third of the food that we eat every day is the direct result of pollination, and without pollinators our diets would lack exciting and essential foods that provide vital nutrients and medicines. Good food and medicine has the ability to add joy, health and happiness to our lives! Many foods that rely on pollinators are the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Even your morning coffee, tea, and chocolate all rely on pollinating insects! Ecosystems are also dependent on native pollinators – 90% of flowering plants rely on pollinators to some degree. Therefore, in addition to the food we eat, pollinators also support healthy ecosystems that improve air quality, stabilize soils, and support all other wildlife. Pollinator declines can have large impacts given the critical roles that they play in ecosystem health. Further, it is these healthy, thriving and intact ecosystems that provide the basis for indigenous food systems, locally and globally.
Given the real threat of food insecurity facing Vancouver Island (we only produce 5% of what we consume, historically this number was 85%), these small but mighty organisms need our help to get populations thriving again! Pollinators are a diverse group of organisms that visit flowers to feed on pollen and nectar or to collect oils and resins. In the process pollinators transfer pollen grains and assist plants in reproduction, supporting productivity in natural and agricultural landscapes. Native bees and other pollinators play a key role in the functioning of our global and local economies through the pollination services they provide to the agriculture industry.
Many pollinator populations and species are in decline, due primarily to habitat loss, disease, climate change, competition with managed pollinators, and the use of pesticides. Without feeding and nesting habitats, native pollinators cannot function to support terrestrial ecosystems, and food systems. The decline of these pollinators is a serious problem that requires immediate, local action to ensure that Canada and Vancouver Island’s food system and natural environment are productive and resilient. Establishing goals to secure habitat for pollinators is an essential strategy that will take buy in, co-ordination, and commitment from a number of sectors including government, industry, and citizens. As our Pollinator Partnership motto says, ‘Protect their lives; Preserve ours’.
For more information on how you can become involved, please visit the Pollinator Partnership website at www.pollinatorpartnership.ca or our local Island Pollinator Initiative (IPI) website at http://islandpollinatorinitiative.ca/. The IPI is a coalition of local organizations that are dedicated to promoting the protection of native and managed pollinators on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands through collaboration, event and information sharing, outreach, and action.
Photos copyright of Anthony Colangelo