The buzz on pollinators: Why their declining population is bad news for everyone

June 18, 2018 Aaron Feggestad

It’s critical that we address the pollinator crisis through natural habitat design and restoration

 

In recent years, experts have grown increasingly concerned about worldwide declines of pollinators. What exactly is a pollinator? A pollinator is any animal, most commonly insects such as bees or butterflies, that facilitates plant reproduction through the transfer of pollen from one plant to another.

But there are plenty of pollinators around, aren’t there? What’s causing this worry?

The decline of numerous pollinator populations has been widely documented around the globe. In eastern North America alone, the population of the iconic monarch butterfly has declined 80% in the past 20 years. Many other pollinators have experienced a similar—even if far less publicized—fate.

 

The decline of numerous pollinator populations has been widely documented around the globe.

 

These trends are alarming, especially knowing that 90% of all flowering plant species rely on pollinators. Moreover, one-third of all food crops depend on pollinators. From apples to almonds, pollinators curate many of the foods we find in the produce section of our local supermarkets.

The ongoing decline of pollinators poses serious impacts to global environments and economies through loss of biodiversity and impacts on food production. Insect pollination is valued at over $200 billion, yet pollinator habitats continue to decline in both abundance and quality. The pollinator crisis is a real threat—and it’s upon us. So, what can we do today to protect food economies and ensure that species like the monarch butterfly survive for future generations? 

 

Insect pollination is valued at over $200 billion, yet pollinator habitats continue to decline in both abundance and quality.

 

Helping fight the pollinator crisis

Accordingly, the pollinator crisis is of high interest to the environmental consulting industry right now. However, some are still not aware of the threat—or if they are, they don’t see the advantages of incorporating pollinator habitats into their designs. That’s where we step in: to help facilitate education and awareness prior to eventual implementation.

_q_tweetable:The ongoing decline of pollinators poses serious impacts to global environments and economies through loss of biodiversity and impacts on food production._q_Our Environmental Services team aims to demonstrate why the pollinator crisis should matter to our clients. How? Well, for one, by highlighting the critical role pollinators play in everyday life. But also by showing our clients that sound environmental stewardship and setting a positive example can enhance their corporate image and provide a powerful source of company pride in the community.

Through cross-collaboration, we believe there is a strong potential for many clients to adopt our approach and incorporate native pollinator habitats into the built environment. Whether it’s a power, oil and gas, or transportation project, proactive thinking and planning can offer the design, implementation, and maintenance to support pollinators and their habitats.

 

Ahead of the curve

We always strive to show our clients the value of long-term sustainability over short-term gains. Right now, that means integrating components like pollinator habitats into developing projects when possible. The decision to embrace a new or innovative design almost always comes down to budget. How much is our client able to spend? How can we maximize that spending to optimize our design now and into the future?

The fact is, our clients may still feel pollinator habitats are non-essential elements to a project. It’s our job to prove value, which can be challenging because the cost can vary from site to site. Plus, the costs of a pollinator habitat are typically compared to traditional turf or landscaping. The pricing may not seem attractive, but not all pollinator projects need to be complex—a little can go a long way.

For example, simply enhancing existing landscaping to attract a certain kind of pollinator is a step in the right direction. In some cases, the costs of pollinator project could come out to the same price or less than traditional approaches. In more expensive instances, where costs are usually associated with maintenance, we help to highlight the worldwide need.

 

We always strive to show our clients the value of long-term sustainability over short-term gains. Right now, that means integrating components like pollinator habitats into developing projects when possible.

 

Becoming a champion of the cause

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering listing the monarch butterfly species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Some pollinators are already listed, while others have been petitioned for listing by various conservation organizations. What may not be a regulatory issue now, could soon become a major issue heading forward.  

The pollinator crisis is an evolving issue. So, our experts are working every day to communicate the importance of pollinators and the implications of designing pollinator habitats into our client’s projects.

How?

By discussing the potential impacts the pollinator populations may have on our way of life. By educating our clients on the different species associated with these habitats. By highlighting the ecological benefits that native habitats can serve in our local communities. And by showcasing how Stantec can champion this cause and help mitigate the pollinator crisis for future generations.

For any more information regarding pollinator habitats, contact our Environmental Services team.

 

About the Author

Aaron Feggestad

Aaron Feggestad is a restoration ecologist in our Madison, Wisconsin, office, where he conducts ecological restoration planning and design, on-the-ground restoration implementation, natural resource assessments and monitoring, and wetland delineations.

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