Plants rely on pollination — nearly 90% of flowering plants need pollinators to transfer pollen for successful reproduction. In turn, these plants are critical in ecosystem function, providing food, forming habitats and offering a variety of resources for many animals. Pollinators — birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, bats and other small mammals — also are key in regulating ecosystems that support food production, habitats and natural resources. Unfortunately, substantial evidence shows the decline of pollinator populations due to human activity and habitat fragmentation. Broad-spectrum pesticides, disease and the spread of invasive plants also can disrupt pollinator habitats.
Pollination is essential for survival. Agriculturally, the loss of pollinators would alter human food systems dramatically. Many fruits and vegetables are insect-pollinated and grown on a large scale with the help of pollinators. Without them, the availability and diversity of fresh produce would decline substantially, and human nutrition would be impacted negatively. It’s possible to pollinate without them, but it would be incredibly labor-intensive and expensive.
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 spring 2021, the Corps and Georgia Audubon began planting native grasses and plants that will attract pollinators at Cooper’s Furnace in Cartersville, but this was only the beginning of the restoration project.
Using supplemental funding provided by its headquarters in Washington, the Corps has installed pollinator fields and restoration sites at several areas around the lake. This year, a hoop house was built at the Volunteer Village for growing wildflowers and native aquatic plants, which will be planted annually in the lake bed to create fish habitats. And beehives were set up at the Allatoona Project Management Office and at Wildlife Action of Georgia.
You can make a positive impact on reversing the pollinators’ decline by turning your yard into a pollinator garden.
Here are some ideas.
- Fill your yard with native plants.
Native plants are the foundation of habitats for pollinators, providing them with pollen and nectar for food, protection from predators and the elements, as well as a place for their young to grow.
- Give bees a home.
Most of the 4,000 bee species native to North America don’t form hives. Instead, 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 cause is the lack of this caterpillar host plant. Without it, butterflies cannot complete their life cycle.
- Protect grasslands.
These are important for birds, butterflies and bees and are on a faster decline than any other ecosystem in North America.
- Sign up for the annual Georgia Pollinator Census.
The census, held Aug. 19-20, is a citizen science project designed to make a difference in pollinator conservation. Watch the video at ggapc.org to learn how to join.
For information about our restoration project, call me at 678-721-6700.