ARE YOUR PLANS FOR NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK?
by Whit Gibbons
April 29, 2007
Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia submitted U.S. Senate Resolution 580,
which recognizes "the importance of pollinators to ecosystem health
and agriculture in the United States and the value of partnership efforts
to increase awareness about pollinators and support for protecting and
sustaining pollinators by designating June 24 through June 30, 2007, as
National Pollinator Week." The Senate had the wisdom to approve the
to spend time on such an issue may, at first, seem frivolous. But consider
this: if pollination were to diminish or cease completely, the results
would be disastrous for everyone who consumes food. Pollinators are an
essential element of the environmental framework of which we are a part
and upon which we all depend. For our national representatives to acknowledge
this reality is hardly frivolous.
resolution refers to a Web site (www.pollinator.org) as a source for pollinator
information. The Pollinator Partnership asserts that "pollinators
are essential to life." For life as we know it, this is absolutely
true. Pollination of native plants and agricultural crops is one of those
critical biological services that we simply take for granted because it
is taken care of at no cost to us. More than three-fourths of the world's
crop plants depend on pollination by flying animals to produce seeds or
fruit. According to the resolution, "pollinators help to produce
an estimated 1 out of every 3 bites of food consumed in the United States."
these important creatures that assume the key role of moving pollen from
one flower to another? In addition to the bee, wasp, and butterfly pollinators
we are accustomed to, beetles, flies, and mosquitoes are also important.
Although we may think of hummingbirds as backyard visitors that drink
nectar from hanging containers, in fact, they are also significant pollinators.
Some flowers in the western United States and American tropics are dependent
on hummingbird pollinators for their propagation; they are not found in
regions where hummingbirds are absent. And in the Sonoran Desert, Saguaro
cacti are pollinated by bats at night.
to the vital role pollination plays in producing the vegetative landscapes
we are familiar with and providing most of the food we eat, economic considerations
are also substantial. For example, according to the resolution, "animal
pollinators generate significant income for agricultural producers, with
domestic honeybees alone pollinating" more than $14 billion worth
of crops each year in the United States. The resolution also considers
what would happen if the size and general health of populations of pollinators
were to decline on a national or international scale. It should be viewed
as "a significant threat to global food webs, the integrity of biodiversity,
and human health." Clearly, it is in the best interest of all of
us for healthy populations of pollinators to remain with us.
is missing from the Senate resolution about the importance of pollinators
and their healthy persistence in the ecosystem: What should we do, or
not do, to ensure that pollinating insects and flying vertebrates remain
with us? That information is available on the pollinator Web site. "Due
to biodiversity threats such as land development, pollution, and pesticide
poisoning, we are losing pollinators around the world at an alarming rate."
So we need to limit development, curb pollution, and curtail pesticide
use. Ironically, the very pesticides that are viewed by some as essential
to our agricultural economy are also considered to be the culprit in the
decline of some of the insects necessary for pollination.
The pollinator Web site, sponsored by the North American Pollinator Protection
Campaign and the Coevolution Institute, is a valuable environmental resource.
It answers some frequently asked questions at the “What Is Pollination?”
link, helps develop public awareness of just how fragile our connections
are to the world's ecosystems, and emphasizes the importance of ecologists
who are working to understand pollination systems.
The underlying message of the Web site and the Senate resolution is clear.
If even small, flying insects are essential for us to live on earth, we
should value and preserve every part of our environment.
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