Pollinator Plan a call to action on worldwide issue

Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

Published 29/09/2015 | 00:00

The contribution that pollinators make to the Irish economy has been estimated at €53 million each year. Yet, the future wellbeing of the providers of these valuable services are under significant threat
The contribution that pollinators make to the Irish economy has been estimated at €53 million each year. Yet, the future wellbeing of the providers of these valuable services are under significant threat

The recently-published 'All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020' addresses the issue of pollinator decline. It is known that populations of pollinators are falling and some species are facing extinction. The initiative of producing a plan is an attempt to raise awareness of the problem, to rally support and to make a call to action in the hope that all stakeholders can work together to create an Ireland where pollinators can survive and thrive.

The ultimate aim is to slow, halt and reverse the present decline. So, who are the pollinators? Why are they in decline? And, what can be done about it?

Pollinators are the insects that pollinate flowers: mainly bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, flies and others. Fields of Oil Seed Rape produce a crop for farmers due to the input that insects provide carrying pollen from one flower to another. Orchard owners would find it very difficult to produce apples without the services that bumblebees provide pollinating the apple blossoms.

The contribution that pollinators make to the Irish economy has been estimated at €53 million each year. Yet, the future wellbeing of the providers of these valuable services are under significant threat.

Threats arise on five main fronts: homelessness (habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and habitat degradation), hunger (loss of wild flowers that produce nectar and pollen), sickness and disease, poisoning by pesticides and climate change.

The pollinator plan proposes that the most cost-effective option to mitigate these threats is to develop an Irish landscape where pollinators can survive and thrive. This can be achieved by increasing the numbers of wildflowers that grow naturally within the landscape and by retaining or creating natural nesting habitat for pollinators.

The problem is not unique to Ireland, of course. It is a universal issue and lessons can be learned from initiatives that have proved successful in other countries.

Examples of best practice from around the world include planting patches of urban areas with wildflowers, growing pollinator-friendly plants in gardens, creating a nature strip by allowing some lawn weeds to flower, leaving wildflower strips within cropped fields, allowing field margins to grow wild, incorporating clovers into grass-dominated swards and installing artificial solitary bee nests and bug hotels in urban gardens and in so-called 'waste ground'.

The 'All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2015-2020' is published by the Waterford-based National Biodiversity Data Centre. Packed with user-friendly information and helpful hints, the very attractive and colourful 48-page plan is well-worth checking out at http://www.biodiversityireland.ie/pollinator-plan

Wexford People

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