The buzz about pollinator gardens!

Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors summer adventure part 5:

The buzz about pollinator gardens!

By Karam Halabi

2022-2023 Parks Canada Youth Ambassador

On our trip to Fundy National Park, my fellow Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit one of the pollinator gardens implemented on the East Coast as part of an initiative to help pollinators in trouble! 

While there, we stayed in one of the cozy oTENTik tents and the following morning we had a short walk to the garden. At first glance, the pollinator garden looks just like any other garden, however, what we found was a biodiverse playground of various native plants that invited all sorts of pollinators alike such as bees, butterflies, moths, and many other species of pollinators as well!

Many of us have heard the stories of bees/pollinators at risk due to human activities such as pollution, pesticide and herbicide use, urbanization and habitat loss, etc. While walking in the garden, I learned that pollinators are an essential aspect in sustaining healthy ecosystems and biodiversity. They transfer pollen from flower to flower which results in seeds, fruits and the next generation of plants! Healthy ecosystems are vital to us, they stabilize soils, support wildlife and even clean the air. In other words, protecting pollinators is crucial because of how interconnected they are in our ecosystems! 

As we toured around the East Coast, we encountered numerous pollinator gardens along the way. At each pollinator garden we visited, we felt a sense of awe and admiration towards the citizen science project initiative that inspires everyday citizens like ourselves to be part of the effort. These gardens are supporting pollinators by creating a welcoming habitat of native plants! The whole time there, I was thinking of ways I could convert my own backyard into such an incredible garden in which chirping hummingbirds or colourful butterflies would pay me a visit! 🙂

On our walk, we were accompanied by a knowledgeable and enthusiastic expert from Fundy National Park, Neil Vinson, who helped implement the project (and continues to maintain it to this day)! Here is a summary of our conversations:

What is your position and how long have you been working for Fundy National Park?

I’m a Resource Management Officer here at Fundy, where I’ve worked for nine years.

Why do you think this is a significant conservation project for the Park?

It’s less of a conservation project and more of an outreach tool, that’s where this really thrives! As a national park we are already doing our part by protecting 206km2 of New Brunswick. However, by putting a garden up like this, it’s a showpiece and it’s an education piece. It shows people what they could do with native plants and therefore allows an open discussion about it. 

What types of plants can we find in the garden?

In the garden we’re up to about 70 different native species that we’ve either put in intentionally or they’ve come in on their own. All of the ones that we intend to be here are native species although there are non-native weeds that sneak in which we have to manage.

Do any of them have special significance to the area?

The one that comes to mind is the black ash tree. It’s very significant to Indigenous peoples and has many historical and cultural uses, like basket weaving for example.

Is a Pollinator Garden something that people can do at their own homes?

Absolutely! That’s one of the things that are so great about it. It’s so accessible! We hear all this terrible news about climate change and about the biodiversity crisis, and this is something that you can easily do in your yard or on your balcony or whatever little piece on this planet that you own.

Indigenous knowledge teaches us that everything has a purpose and is interconnected; this view is also supported by scientists who study the relationship between native plants and pollinators. 

The reason why native plants and their pollinators work efficiently together is because they have co-evolved throughout time. For example, pollinators emerge at the same time as flower plants which maximizes pollen transfer and efficiency. It is important to preserve these native plants and wildlife because losing just one can have unforeseen consequences on our ecosystems since everything is interconnected in more ways than we can predict!

We had a wonderful time exploring the pollinator garden at Fundy National Park! Truth be told, prior to this experience I had little interest in native plants. However, I left with a newfound appreciation for these plants because I learnt how pivotal they were to the ecosystems that we rely on and to the beautiful pollinators that we appreciate having around! Not only that, but some of the plants were pretty, such as the common boneset that would make a great addition to any landscape or outdoor space, such as my own backyard! 🙂

– Karam

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