Urban environments have the potential to support large numbers of pollinators.
This can seem surprising since often, when we think of conservation and restoration projects, we think of large-scale areas--certainly not residential gardens. But it turns out, pollinators are happy in small areas too.
Current research is showing that cities can play a major role in ensuring pollinators survive. According to the Urban Pollinators Project (Bristol University), half of Germany’s entire bee fauna have been found in Berlin and 35% of British hoverfly species were sampled in a single Leicester garden. In several cases, more diverse and abundant populations of native bees live in cities than in nearby rural landscapes (Conservation Biology).
Urban habitats are good for pollinators because there is diversity of plants in gardens, and less use of pesticides than in agricultural areas. But working in urban areas means thinking at a different scale and focusing on spaces that have been traditionally overlooked. As well, community members and groups need to be full partners at the table.
In Hamilton, the Pollinators Paradise Project (PPP) is an initiative designed to achieve high-priority pollinator habitat conservation locally. An initiative of two local non-profit groups (Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Naturalists' Club), the project aims at building a corridor of native plant habitat across the city of Hamilton, so that a native bee or butterfly need never exhaust itself on its search for food, shelter and nesting grounds to reproduce.
The PPP works with homeowners and renters, faith groups, schools and public parks. Community gardens are also involved; helping to connect local food production to healthy pollinator habitat is a way of also engaging neighbourhoods in food security and conservation.
As part of the movement to create habitat locally, the project offers a certification program where people can register and be added to a map that lists patches across the city. The sign also acts as a deterrent to those neighbours who might otherwise take issue with your naturalized garden!
As well, initiatives that further awareness and participation to improve biodiversity include the PPP's recently launched, "Monarch Awards" to demonstrate appreciation for gardening for nature.
Education and Access
It’s all very well to tell people to plant habitat, but where do the get native species? The PPP has also started a yearly native plant sale in partnership with the Royal Botanical Garden. The project also offers smaller native plant sales during the summer. Hands on opportunities include bee box making workshops, seedball making, designing your garden, starting native plants from seeds and fall gardening are also offered free of charge, as well as a yearly forum on protecting native pollinators.
Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko