Plants rely on pollination — nearly 90% of flowering plants need pollinators to transfer pollen for successful reproduction. In turn, these plants are critical in the functioning of ecosystems. They form habitats and provide food and a wide range of other resources for many animal species.
Pollinators like birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and other small mammals play a key role in regulating ecosystems that support food production, habitats and natural resources. Unfortunately, there is substantial evidence of the decline of pollinator populations due to human activity and habitat fragmentation. Furthermore, many broad-spectrum pesticides and diseases, and the spread of invasive plant species, also may disrupt pollinator habitats.
The Simple Truth
Pollination is an essential ecological function for survival. In terms of agriculture, the loss of pollinators would alter human food systems dramatically. Most calories come from cereal grains, which are wind-pollinated and unaffected by pollinator populations. However, many fruits and vegetables are insect-pollinated, and they are grown on a large scale with the help of pollinators. Without pollinators, it still is possible to pollinate, but it would be incredibly labor-intensive and expensive. Without pollinators, the availability and diversity of fresh produce would decline substantially, and human nutrition would be impacted negatively.
How the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is Helping
As an effort to help restore healthy pollinator ecosystems, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Allatoona Lake created the Pollinator and Native Habitat Restoration Project. In early spring this year, the Corps began working with Georgia Audubon, planting native grasses and plants that will attract pollinator species at Cooper’s Furnace Day Use Area in Cartersville. But, this is only the beginning of the restoration project.
The Corps at Allatoona Lake has received supplemental funding through a partnership program from Corps Headquarters in Washington. In partnership with Keep Bartow Beautiful, Wildlife Action Inc., and the Bartow and Cherokee County UGA Extensions, these organizations will help the Corps install more pollinator gardens and restoration sites at other areas surrounding the lake. Additionally, the annual planting of native aquatic plant species with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division, has created fish habitats and food plots for other wildlife. Finally, the Corps also will introduce beehives at several areas around the lake, in partnership with Bobbee MacBee’s and Wildlife Action.
How You Can Help
You can make a positive impact, reversing the decline of pollinators, by turning your own yard into a pollinator garden. Here are some ideas to help make a difference:
- Fill your yard with native plants.
Native plants are the foundation of habitats for pollinators. They provide pollinators with pollen and nectar for food, protection from predators and the elements, and a place for their young to grow.
- Give bees a home.
There are around 4,000 bee species native to North America, and most don’t form hives. Instead, the females lay eggs in decaying wood or sandy soil. Leave tree snags on your property or build a native bee house.
- Plant milkweed.
Monarch butterfly populations have declined a staggering 90% in the past 20 years. One of many causes is the lack of milkweed (a caterpillar host plant). Without this plant, these butterflies cannot complete their life cycle. By planting milkweed, you can provide a crucial habitat for the survival of monarch caterpillars.
- Protect grasslands.
Grasslands are on the decline faster than any other ecosystem in North America. Native grasslands are important for pollinators, such as birds, butterflies and bees.
Pollinators play a significant role in our ecosystem. The Corps and its partners recognize their importance, and are working together to re-establish a healthy environment. You can help our pollinator friends by protecting biodiversity and native habitats.
For more information about the Corps’ Pollinator and Native Habitat Restoration Project, contact the Allatoona Operations Project Management Office at 678-721-6700.
– Linda Purvis is a park ranger and natural resources specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Allatoona Lake. She is the lead coordinator on the Allatoona Lake Pollinator and Native Habitat Restoration Project.