Pollinator pathways

Hakanoa Pollinator Path Photo from https://www.facebook.com/pollinatorpaths/

Pollinator pathways are a nature-based solution made up of spaces including parks, gardens, and other urban vegetation or blue-green space which provide safe passage, refuge and resources for pollinators including bees, butterflies, other insects, reptiles and birds (Harrison & Winfree, 2015; Płaskonka et al., 2024). Pollinator pathways are intended to address declines in pollinator populations, especially in urban settings that allow them to travel between habitat fragments, and to provide habitat functions including food and breeding sites. Pollinator pathway projects usually aim to develop routes of plants and habitats that support pollinator species, including native vegetation, flowering and fruiting plants providing nectar, pollen, and nesting sites. Pollinator pathways also benefit communities by contributing to biodiversity, ecosystem health, and well-being outcomes by supporting urban food production (via enhancing pollination), enhancing urban blue-green spaces and providing education and engagement in biodiversity conservation (Langellotto et al., 2018; Zhang et al., 2022).

Name of NbS

Pollinator pathways

Type of NbS

Ecosystem restoration, Ecosystem protection

Location

  • Urban,
  • Peri-urban,
  • Rural
Hakanoa Pollinator Path Photo from https://www.facebook.com/pollinatorpaths/

Relationship to Indigenous knowledge

Pollinator pathways draw on principles of conservation, landscape ecology, urban planning, and community action as well as Indigenous knowledge frameworks (Harrison & Winfree, 2015; Langellotto et al., 2018; Zhang et al., 2022). They can incorporate traditional ecological knowledge, emphasising the interconnectedness of all living beings and a worldview that works in with, not against nature (Kiddle et al., 2021). Incorporating native plants and traditional land management practices can both support pollinator biodiversity and habitat health, alongside promoting community involvement, respect for natural resources and sustainable land stewardship and the perpetuation of Indigenous knowledges (Malmer et al., 2019). Pollinator pathway projects should engage Indigenous communities to ensure locally appropriate and inclusive approaches to biodiversity conservation.

Climate change benefits
  • Changes in phenology (life cycle timing changes in plants and animals)
  • Increased pests or spread of weeds
  • Indirect health, social, cultural climate change impacts
  • Loss of food production
  • Loss of other ecosystem services

As the effects of climate change increasingly put pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity, and weather systems become more extreme, plants and animals can experience changes in phenology (Harrison & Winfree, 2015; Vitasse et al., 2022). This is especially significant for pollinator species, which are affected by seasonal timing and the relationships between plants (such as flowering and fruiting periods) and their own life cycles related to dormancy, feeding, and breeding. Pollinator pathways can contain diverse species that have different life cycles, ensuring habitat and food are available to pollinators for extended periods, mitigating changes in phenology. Introduced pests can affect pollinator populations and weed plants can displace native species. Pollinator pathways bolster pollinator populations and provide essential refuge especially in urban areas, increasing survival rates (Langellotto et al., 2018). Increased pollinator populations can improve food production by increasing pollination of food plants, such as in urban agriculture and improving local and home garden food production (Langellotto et al., 2018; Płaskonka et al., 2024). Other ecosystem services provided by pollinator pathways include those provided by urban vegetation generally, such as urban heat

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Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Biodiversity health and conservation
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Human physical health and wellbeing
  • Pressures of urbanization (waste management, hygiene, etc)

Health, social cohesion, and wellbeing are improved through community action to establish pollinator pathway projects as a tangible way for people to engage in climate change adaptation (Malmer et al., 2019). The pressures of urbanisation, including increasing encroachment on green space, poor urban water management and increasing building density can impact biodiversity health, especially by reducing vegetation cover (Harrison & Winfree, 2015; Langellotto et al., 2018; Płaskonka et al., 2024). Pollinator pathways provide restorative action to increase vegetation and connectivity between habitats for pollinators, as well as providing positive aesthetic and community outcomes, increasing shared sense of positivity and responsibility for local habitat areas.

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Ecological and biodiversity benefits
  • Aesthetic value / artistic inspiration
  • Climate regulation
  • Education and knowledge
  • Genetic resources (diversity)
  • Habitat provision
  • Pollination
  • Relaxation and psychological wellbeing
  • Species maintenance

Often incorporating flowering species, pollinator pathways also have aesthetic value. This enhances the quality of their surroundings for people, as well as increasing populations of species often considered on an aesthetic level as desirable, like birds, butterflies and bees (because of their beauty and association with natural settings). These can improve relaxation and psychological wellbeing of people who experience these projects. Species and genetic diversity within species are maintained by providing food, refuge and breeding sites, as well as by linking potentially previously disconnected populations of the same species (Harrison & Winfree, 2015; Płaskonka et al., 2024). Pollinator pathway projects can engage communities directly in their installation and management, as well as by providing information and experience based opportunities to learn about pollinator conservation.

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Technical requirements

Specific requirements for establishing and maintaining pollinator pathways include obtaining funding from local government or other organisations, site identification and assessment, selection of plants, and design of human and green infrastructure (Senapathi et al., 2017). Community engagement essentially involves local people in conservation, biodiversity and climate outcomes in their neighborhood (Malmer et al., 2019; Senapathi et al., 2017). Pollinator pathway projects usually require some degree of maintenance, including watering and weeding of establishing plantings, and monitoring pollinator activity to provide understandings of impacts, however these are often lower impact then the intensive management that might have taken place in the area beforehand (Senapathi et al., 2017). Pollinator pathway projects are often undertaken as collaborations between community organisations, local people, government departments and specific experts such as urban planners, ecologists, and biologists.

Issues and Barriers

In Te Moananui Oceania implementation of pollinator pathway projects can face challenges including the impact of invasive species, existing fragmentation of habitats and negative climate change impacts such as more extreme weather events (like temperature and rainfall). Pollinator pathway projects often take place in public spaces, so must also consider cultural implications, especially for local Indigenous groups, and coordination with relevant governmental departments. Addressing barriers requires collaboration between all stakeholders (including government departments, Indigenous groups, community groups and local people).

Opportunities

Opportunities to implement pollinator pathways in Te Moananui Oceania are numerous, especially considering the rapid and often informal nature of urban development occurring in some parts of te Moananui Oceania that might forego considerations of conservation and biodiversity outcomes. Indigenous knowledge can be employed to enforce participants of locally appropriate plants and animals to support, and traditional ecological knowledge like knowledge of phenology can inform establishment actions (such as planting or flowering times). In order to connect across urban areas, or to reestablish connection from the sure to higher ecosystems pollinator pathways could also be a feasible option.

Financial case

Pollinator pathways are generally low cost projects implemented in neighbourhoods by communities, environmental organisations or local government departments. Despite this they offer myriad benefits, ecological, socioeconomic, and for tangible climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“NYC: The High Line” The High Line creates a pollinator pathway in New York. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Photo by Wally Gobetz
References
  • Harrison, T., & Winfree, R. (2015). Urban drivers of plant‐pollinator interactions. Functional Ecology, 29(7), 879–888. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.12486
  • Kiddle, G. L., Pedersen Zari, M., Blaschke, P., Chanse, V., & Kiddle, R. (2021). An Oceania Urban Design Agenda Linking Ecosystem Services, Nature-Based Solutions, Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Wellbeing. Sustainability, 13(22), 12660. https://doi.org/10.3390/su132212660
  • Langellotto, G., Melathopoulos, A., Messer, I., Anderson, A., McClintock, N., & Costner, L. (2018). Garden Pollinators and the Potential for Ecosystem Service Flow to Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture. Sustainability, 10(6), 2047. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10062047
  • Malmer, P., Tengo, M., Fernández-Llamazares, Á., E.Woodward, N. Crawhall, R. Hill, P. Trakansuphakon, Athayde, S., C. Carino, D. Crimella, M. Farhan Ferrari, E. Perez, R. Spencer, N. Trakansuphakon, A. Bicksler, J. Carino, J. Lengoisa, T. Lungharwo, & B. Tahi. (2019). Dialogue across Indigenous, local and scientific knowledge systems reflecting on the IPBES Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production. https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.10606.87369
  • Płaskonka, B., Zych, M., Mazurkiewicz, M., Skłodowski, M., & Roguz, K. (2024). Pollinator-mediated connectivity in fragmented urban green spaces—Tracking pollen grain movements in the city center. Acta Oecologica, 123, 103985. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actao.2024.103985
  • Senapathi, D., Goddard, M. A., Kunin, W. E., & Baldock, K. C. R. (2017). Landscape impacts on pollinator communities in temperate systems: Evidence and knowledge gaps. Functional Ecology, 31(1), 26–37. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.12809
  • Vitasse, Y., Baumgarten, F., Zohner, C. M., Rutishauser, T., Pietragalla, B., Gehrig, R., Dai, J., Wang, H., Aono, Y., & Sparks, T. H. (2022). The great acceleration of plant phenological shifts. Nature Climate Change, 12(4), 300–302. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-022-01283-yZhang, X., Zhang, L., Wang, Y., Shao, Y., Daniels, B., Roß-Nickoll, M., & Chen, Z. (2022). Pollinators and urban riparian vegetation: Important contributors to urban diversity conservation. Environmental Sciences Europe, 34(1), 78. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-022-00661-9