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Pollinator Biodiversity

Denise Knapp, Director of Conservation and Education at SBBG, is learning more about the species diversity and abundance of bees and other pollinators (flies, beetles, and butterflies) on rare plants, on farms, and also in the Garden.

She will be placing colored bowls out in the Garden to trap pollinators starting in April, 2014.

Read about her other projects below.

Native Habitat Buffers as Models of Agricultural Sustainability

Increasing the efficiency and sustainability of our agricultural land is an important step towards reducing biodiversity loss while meeting the world’s food needs. Native habitat buffers in and around farmland improve agricultural productivity and sustainability in three ways: by attracting native pollinators (decreasing the need for hired and transported honey bee hives), increasing natural pest control (decreasing the need for pesticides), and stabilizing soil (minimizing runoff, and improving water quality). Because of improved yield, the costs of installing habitat gardens can be recouped by the producer in at little as 3-4 years. Native plants are four times more likely than their non-native counterparts to attract native bees, and support as many as 14 times the number of butterfly and moth species as non-native species.

We aim to demonstrate the effectiveness of native habitat buffers by collecting pollinator abundance and diversity data prior to installing these buffers on several farms in Santa Barbara County. In addition, on two small farms that already have buffers, we are collecting data to learn more about which species native to the region work best to attract native pollinators. The long-term goals of this project are to promote the economic and environmental advantages of native habitat buffers to both growers and citizens, and to be able to write plant “prescriptions” for farms and other areas that will attract desirable insects.

Rare Plant-Pollinator Network Restoration

There are 120 rare, threatened, and endangered plant species listed in the state of California, and it’s remarkable that for the majority of these we don’t know which insects are pollinating them. Cross-pollination is important to maintain vigorous populations that produce more high-quality seed, and are better adapted to change, but pollinators are declining around the globe. Pollinator visitation and seed set of these rare plants can be improved by increasing the area and density of the rare plants themselves as well as the diversity and abundance of other native plants in the community. This can increase the number of pollination "partners," thus improving species survival and persistence. 

We have undertaken a rare plant recovery and restoration effort for three rare plants which will not only benefit those plants themselves, but also the plants and pollinators in the community as a whole. While investigating the threats and life histories of the rare plants, we are also describing their associated plant species and insect visitors, in order to define their plant-pollinator networks. This will increase our understanding of the system in which these rare plants live, ultimately helping us to conduct habitat restoration. In the meantime, our conservation collections will serve as an insurance policy for the species as well as a source for subsequent population recovery efforts. 
Learn more about rare plant recovery and restoration at SBBG

Additional Resources:

Xerces Society's Pollinator Resource Center