Why are Pollinators so Important?

Cornell Cooperative Extension | What is a Pollinator?

By: Thurkkha Thayalalingam

Pollination is the process of transferring pollen between the male and female parts of the plant to allow for fertilization and reproduction. Virtually all flowering plants require pollination, and some of the most common pollinators include bees, birds, bats, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps, and small mammals. Pollinators as well as the plants that they pollinate have many functions and ecosystem services.  

Air Quality 

Flowering plants play an essential role in producing clean air. Through the process of photosynthesis, these plants intake carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide us with breathable oxygen. With the current rates of deforestation and fossil fuel burning, the carbon stored in these plants is being released into the atmosphere and further exacerbating the effects of global warming. We need pollinators to support the restoration and growth of plant populations.  

Soil Erosion 

Flowering plants help prevent soil erosion through their root networks that help keep the soil in place (U.S. Department of Agriculture). The foliage of larger flowering plants also acts as a buffer during heavy rainfall events to reduce the impact of rain on the soil.   

Cultural Significance 

Pollinators such as butterflies and birds have cultural value and significance for many Indigenous communities in Canada.  For example, birds are considered a messenger and a spiritual connection to the Creator for Anishinaabe peoples (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians). 

Threats to Pollinators 

Many pollinator populations are declining due to habitat destruction. The habitat loss and destruction is generally attributed to agriculture, mining and human development. Urban surfaces such as concrete, cement and metal make it challenging for pollinators to forage, nest and survive.  The use of pesticides and insecticides may also cause adverse effects on pollinators. Even if these chemicals don’t kill the pollinators, they may have a diminished ability to navigate or forage (U.S. National Park Service). 

Categories: Outdoors, Student Contributor, Sustainability