New NPS Website on Pollinators Launched
Do you like to eat? Do you like clean air? Do you prefer a healthy economy? Are you a concessioner with a land assignment? The role of pollinators in addressing these pointed questions is addressed on the new NPS subject site on pollinators: www.nps.gov/pollinators.
Pollinators are the insects and animals responsible for moving pollen between flowers, thereby enabling fertilization to occur. Without pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds and bats, many economically and ecologically important flowering plants would not produce fruit or viable seeds. Some fruits, vegetables and nuts important to our diet that require pollinators include peaches, apples, blueberries, potatoes, pumpkins, almonds, coffee and cocoa. Honey bees alone, a “critical link” in agriculture,1 contribute an estimated $15 billion(!) in value to U.S. agricultural crops through pollination annually.2
Unfortunately, all pollinators, and bees and bats specifically, are experiencing alarming declines in their populations. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a mysterious syndrome affecting bee colonies that leaves a bee colony without any adult bees present, or with dead adult bee bodies and a live queen and live immature bees present. The cause of CCD is unknown.3 Since 2006, losses of managed bee colonies have fluctuated between 20 and 30 percent annually.4 While colony mortality rates dropped in 2014, they remain above the level considered “economically sustainable."5
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a similarly disturbing and mysterious condition affecting hibernating bats. A fungal disease that grows on bats’ noses, wings, and tails, WNS causes bats to alter their behavior during winter hibernation. Affected bats wake up more regularly and expend energy at a time when their food sources are scarce, causing many to die from starvation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 5.5 million bats in the Northeast and Canada have died from WNS and 90 to 100 percent of bats have died in some areas.6
Beyond CCD and WNS, populations of other pollinators are experiencing significant declines due to habitat loss, invasive species, disease, and chemical exposure. Pollinator population decline is a large and complex issue that is far from being fully understood and therefore far from being solved.
Recognizing the seriousness of the issue and the impact of pollinator loss on the sustainability of our food systems, President Obama released a Presidential Memorandum calling for a national strategy to protect pollinators in June 2014. Inspired by this memo, the NPS Pollinator Workgroup has developed a pollinators subject site.
The purpose of the site is to:
- Explore the importance of pollinators to our own health and the ecological balance of our planet
- Provide an overview of conservation challenges
- Examine the phenomena of pollinator migration and “nectar corridors”
- Showcase a variety of individual pollinator species, including invertebrates, birds, and mammals
- Provide links to pollinator educational sites for young stewards.
NPS concessioners, in consultation with park staff, are encouraged to explore the site to learn about pollinators and how to contribute to their conservation; and concessioners with land assignments are urged to consider creating pollinator habitat wherever feasible.