This week is Pollinator Week, an international week dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of pollinators to our planet and the challenges they face with climate change and habitat destruction. We’re a bit late to the party, but passionate pollinator observers nonetheless, and admittedly partial to bees!
Pollinators are birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small creatures that pollinate plants and are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food, according to Pollinator Partnership.
Pollinators also sustain our ecosystems and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce. Pollinator Week is managed by Pollinator Partnership, which created the concept and fourteen years ago won unanimous approval from the U.S. Senate to designate a week in June as “National Pollinator Week,” a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown into an international celebration, promoting the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.
The folks at Pollinator Week have lots of suggestions for what we can do to help pollinators. For most of us, the best we thing we can do is stop using pesticides. We can also plant native species of plants that support pollinators in our yards and gardens. (And there’s really no better source for information on what to plant in Southern California than the Theodore Payne Foundation website.)
And just in time for Pollinator Week, LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) has released its first-ever list of 37 charismatic umbrella indicator species for the City of Los Angeles. The list, which was developed in conjunction with the LA Biodiversity Expert Council and includes seven different pollinators, provides a focused set of species that the City can track to assess changes in biodiversity and habitat quality. Think of the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If these species are doing well, it’s a good sign for the rest of us!
While a handful of cities around the world and different U.S. government agencies (e.g., National Park Service and US Fish & Wildlife Service) refer to charismatic indicator species that are being tracked, there are no easily accessible or published lists of these species. The City of Los Angeles is breaking new ground by publishing this list in a way that actively engages the public, and then using the community-generated data to track and monitor biodiversity over time.
LASAN will be tracking the presence and distribution of the indicator species as part of one of the 25 metrics in the LA City Biodiversity Index. When these species are present, it generally means that the space has good habitat quality and connectivity to other open space and is of sufficient size to host a diversity of species.
This summer, LASAN is also partnering with the Los Angeles Public Library to encourage Angelenos to observe, photograph and map these species in the L.A. Bioblitz Challenge, a two-month program that continues until August 7. The goals of this collaboration are to enumerate the city’s existing native biodiversity, reduce observation cold spots, and increase the awareness residents have of local wildlife and habitats.
There are many ways to participate in observing and protecting our urban wildlife, so get out there and celebrate our local pollinators! Warm sunny days are the best time to spot butterflies and bees.