Government Groups Address Pollinator Conservation

An Oct. 18 symposium brings together organizations promoting awareness of pollinator decline.

USDA's Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign hosted a Pollinator Symposium Wednesday, aiming to bring attention to the issue of protecting pollinators.

Many plants, including commercial crops, depend on pollinating insects and other animals for reproduction, but pollinators are declining in North America. The American honeybee population has dropped an estimated 30% in the past two decades. Researchers blame pesticides and introduced parasites for some of the honeybee decline.

Bats, another key pollinator for some crops, have declined as well, due in part to vandalism and development destroying their cave roosts.

The Oct. 18 symposium aimed to raise awareness of pollinator decline and the importance of conserving the species that plants rely on for reproduction. The event opened with USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner announcing a proclamation signed by USDA Secretary Mike Johanns designating June 24-30, 2007 as National Pollinator Week.

The U.S. Postal Service also announced a project to help raise pollinator conservation awareness, unveiling the design for a series of stamps highlighting the topic.

"Farmers see the connection between plants and pollinators every day," says Conner. "Thanks to these beautiful stamps, that same point is illustrated for everyone."

Drawing attention to the scientific end of pollinator decline, Dr. Gene Robinson, a University of Illinois professor of entomology, introduced a nearly 400 page report titled "The Status of Pollinators: Monitoring and Prevention of their Decline in North America." The report can be found at www.nationalacademies.org.  

Participants at the symposium stressed the importance of bringing forward the often overlooked issue of pollinator conservation.

"Despite its apparent lack of marquee appeal, a decline in pollinator populations is one form of global change that actually has credible potential to alter the shape and structure of terrestrial ecosystems," says May R. Berenbaum, a University of Illinois entomologist and the panel's chairwoman.

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