LIFELINES

PEOPLE & POLLINATORS

Andrea Reid 4TH YEAR

The exchange between people and pollinators is central to the way in which we live today. Our livelyhoods depend on them, as theirs do on us. Without pollinators, over a third of our food supply will cease. Fragmented habitats are resulting in disconnected habitat nodes for many Auckland species, including our prime pollinators.

One of our most common pollinators, the honey bee, is dying around the world at an exponential rate, their numbers depleting by half since the end of World War Two. The biggest causes are the increasing use of pesticides containing neurotoxins, vast monocultures with no cover crops, parasites and diseases such as Varroa destructor and our urbanised, almost flowerless landscapes. Recent research by French beekeepers’ association Unaf has found that urban bees are generally healthier and more productive than their rural counterparts as they enjoy the slightly higher temperatures, the wider variety of plant life for pollination and can avoid the ill-effects of agricultural pesticides.

This study is investigating how the fragmented landscape of a city can be healed using bio-corridors that connect people, pollinators and their habitats through enhanced and restored ecosystem services. Like a river and the blood that flows through our veins, our ecosystems need to connect and flow together to form a network that interacts and integrates into our growing urban metropolis. When an ecosystem becomes fragmented and disconnected it becomes stagnant.

Conserving and protecting the natural environment promotes community awareness of values inherent within the environment and this kaitiakitanga and love of the land can impact on and improve the health of a community.

The demand on the world’s natural resources is encouraging the move towards localised food sources reducing food miles, supporting the local economy, preserving green-space and creating community bonds and connections. Creating local food sources is often more difficult in an urban environment as there is pressure on limited land, but the recent flurry of community gardening is growing, connecting communities with each other and their major food source. Natural pollination in these community gardens is being impaired by the current fragmentation of the green network.

Connectivity of landscapes is highly scale dependent, so the Auckland region has been analysed at a multitude of scales, starting with the overall spatial distribution of habitats across the Auckland region, then refining to more localised areas to show examples of implementation. The scale at which different organisms interact with landscape patterns is also influencing this analysis. In fragmented landscapes, where patches of high- quality habitat are punctuated by stretches of poor habitats, a species with short-range dispersal such as the native kereru will struggle.

The project underlines the importance of linkages between conservation of ecosystem functions using a series of ecological interventions in highly urbanised land. This helps improve sustainable urban production systems, pollinator productivity, community connection and poverty reduction. This project is working on producing a set of tools, methodologies, strategies and best management practices which can be applied to pollinator conservation efforts throughout Auckland, and then hopefully worldwide. That, in turn, will contribute to realising a broader objective: improving the food security, nutrition and livelihoods of urban communities.