The Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) is calling for the creation of a national pollinator recovery strategy featuring pollinator pathways and a comprehensive pollinator monitoring program.
“It is imperative that we invest in initiatives to reverse the effects that pesticides and habitat loss have had on our pollinators,” says Carolyn Callaghan, CWF senior conservation biologist. “We must work diligently in the coming years to create habitat that will ensure pollinators can overcome current threats. This will require not only the voices of Canadians, but also significant investment in the work that lies ahead.”
Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, moths and flies, play critical roles in ecosystems and in the production of our food. Globally, 90 per cent of flowering plants are dependent entirely or in part on animal pollination. Despite the important services they provide, the populations of many wild pollinators are declining, largely due to changes in their habitat, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, invasive species, disease and climate change. Many gaps exist in our knowledge of the world’s pollinators — and what we do know isn’t good news. By some estimates, 40 per cent of pollinators — particularly bees and butterflies — are facing extinction. We don’t know how serious the problem is in Canada overall, because we don’t measure it at a national or provincial level. Few research projects across the country have focused on long-term trends in pollinator abundance.
That’s why CWF is asking Canadians to sign a petition to the federal environment minister proposing an action plan that would include corporations, municipalities, provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples in creating the National Pollinator Monitoring Program and establishing habitat restoration projects in areas such as city parks, right-of-ways and along roadways to create pollinator pathways. Protection of our remaining native grasslands would also be an important element of the action plan.
“The good news is that much can be done to bring pollinator numbers back. We can create habitat by planting pollinator-friendly plants along roadsides, in parks, along utility corridors and even in our backyards and schoolyards. We can support sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices, including crop rotation and retaining hedgerows and wildflower strips. With this comprehensive approach Canada could be a leader in environmentally sustainable practices. It’s critical to the survival of our pollinators and their habitat, and it would have a positive impact on our food supply,” Callaghan says.
Last year, 100,000 Canadians signed CWF’s petition to ban neonicotinoid pesticides. Species recovery is the next step in CWF’s ban with a plan. Learn more about the pollinator pathway and monitoring program and sign the petition at banwithaplan.org.
About the Canadian Wildlife Federation:
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, conducting research, taking action to conserve habitat and wildlife, recommending legislative and policy changes, and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature. Visit CanadianWildlifeFederation.ca for more information.
Carolyn Callaghan , CWF Senior Conservation Biologist email@example.com
Heather Robison, CWF Media and Community Relations Officer 613-599-9594 x 212 firstname.lastname@example.org
In April 2019. Health Canada announced the phase-out and restricted use of three neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam), but changes will not take effect until 2021. The restrictions were put in place due to impacts on aquatic insects rather than pollinators.
What are neonics and how have they impacted pollinators?
Neonicotinoids or “neonics” are a group of insecticides that are chemically related to nicotine. In Canada, five of these insecticides are approved for use on many of our foods, including corn, soy, peas, beans, fruits and vegetables. They are applied to the plant as seed coatings, soil solutions, or as sprays on the leaves and stems. They remain active in the plant for many months, and in the soil up to several years.
Neonics are a systemic pesticide. They can’t be washed off apples or rinsed from garden flowers. They are inside the plant, having been taken up by the leaves or roots and distributed throughout by the vascular system. All parts of the plant are affected, including the stem, flowers, fruits, nectar and pollen. When insects ingest fluids or tissues from a treated plant, the neonics damage their central nervous system, causing tremors, paralysis and sometimes death.
Neonics are now the most widely used insecticides in the world with a global market value of billions of dollars annually.
What are other countries doing to create habitat for pollinators?
This year the German state of Bavaria announced that they will pass a pollinator-protective law that requires 20 per cent of agricultural lands to meet organic farming standards by 2025, before reaching 30 per cent by 2030. Ten percent of green space in Bavaria will be turned into flowering meadows, and rivers and streams will be better protected from pesticides and fertilizers.
How would a national pollinator monitoring program help in Canada?
An effective national monitoring program would provide an overarching framework for monitoring across the country. Every year, the same information would be collected at the same sites in ecosystems across the country. For example, researchers would document which species are present and in what numbers. Templates of effective monitoring programs already exist. For example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has written a Protocol to Detect and Monitor Pollinator Communities. Inspiration can also be found in efforts such as the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program, a continent-wide collaboration to assist the conservation of birds and their habitats. There are more than 1,200 MAPS stations spread across almost every US state and most Canadian provinces. More than 100 scientific papers have emerged from their collaborative work. Though the group is non-governmental, it shows that large-scale coordination is possible and can produce meaningful results.
A federal monitoring program is also an opportunity to educate and engage citizens in understanding the role of pollinators and how they are faring. The United Kingdom’s Pollinator Monitoring and Research Partnership, for example, enlists members of the public to carry out ten-minute FIT counts (Flower-Insect Timed Counts) to better establish pollinator baseline data. The project is a collaboration between the Scottish, Welsh and English federal governments and the UK-based Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
Whatever path it takes, the goal of a federal monitoring program is to collect standardized data so that future changes can be assessed and appropriate actions can be taken. Learn more at BanWithAPlan.org #DoMoreForWildlife #BanNeonics