This piece was recently posted in the Wood Duck April 2018
Toronto has a Pollinator Protection Strategy (PPS) in the works. I chatted with some of the people responsible for its creation to get a “behind the scenes look,” as well as thoughts on how we can do something similar in Hamilton.
Annemarie Baynton, Senior Environmental Planner at the City of Toronto is the lead on the initiative, and coordinates the various divisions responsible for implementation elements of the strategy.
Annemarie points to a long history in Toronto of municipal and non profit groups and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) working to protect pollinators and enhance habitat. “Our Parks division has been leading the way in habitat creation, enhancement and restoration for decades,” she says.
Another influence for the PPS was Bees of Toronto, one of the City’s free Biodiversity Booklet Series that came out and was very popular with the general public.
“So we wanted to bring this interest and the work already being done under a comprehensive structure,” Annemarie says.
That structure is the City of Toronto’s broader Biodiversity Strategy, (also in draft form)** and the PPS will be one of its components.
In developing the PPS, an advisory group was set up in 2016 of scientists and researchers, students and other academics, pollinator and native plant experts, and community based groups to provide guidance to the City on pollination protection and the development of proposed actions.
Annemarie says that the Pollinator Health Action Plan “was helpful and a good starting point, with one of its major goals being to restore, enhance and protect one million acres of pollinator habitat in Ontario.”
Together with the expert panel and sub groups, they came up with recommendations and actions, and then took the draft to the community for feedback.
Over 7000 people provided feedback to the draft. It will be going to Council later this year.
The approach chosen was one that would include as many people as possible in the solution to pollination protection. “We are encouraging people to plant and improve garden practices, we’re putting together a list of recommended native plants and flowering trees and shrubs that attract pollinators, and we’re focusing on educating the population,” Annemarie says. “We want to focus on corridor creation, that is, connecting fragmented patches together across the city. As well, green roofs offer great opportunities to serve as pollinator habitat.”
The draft strategy provides an overview of Toronto's bees and butterflies, a summary of the key guiding priorities that shape the strategy, and a series of proposed actions that will help us to protect and sustain healthy pollinator populations in Toronto.
The draft has identified six priorities for pollinator protection: 1. Creating and enhancing habitat, 2. Designing and connecting green spaces, 3. Partnering and building relationships, 4. Investing, incentivising and inspiring, 5. Educating and training, and 6. Celebrating and recognizing achievements.’
“A series of proposed actions include a review of the City’s mowing practices with a view to preserving pollinator habitat, and work with relevant City divisions and agencies to identify areas that could benefit from less frequent mowing, so more education and training for City staff and contractors, and doing targeted plantings,” says Annemarie.
For details on the priorities and proposed actions, visit the draft strategy here.
Mapping habitat: Some considerations.
I asked Annemarie about mapping where pollinator habitat exists and where it can be protected? For instance, Hamilton has identified and mapped its natural heritage strategy that includes a Linkage designation. This is often important habitat as a corridor and is most likely often pollinator habitat.
“We intend to map where our model gardens are to serve as inspiration for others in the community to create similar gardens on their property,” Annemarie says.
Urban bee expert, Scott MacIvor is one of the experts on the panel. An Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough in the Department of Biological Sciences Scott points to the complexity of defining habitat: “Everything is habitat. Habitat can be found in lots of unobvious places, such as roadsides, balconies, and green roofs.”
“It is always easy to plant flowers, a pollinator garden works and you’ll get more bees, but nesting criteria is really critical,” Scott says. “For example, ground-nesting bees need sandy soil. These bees might be under greater threat with urbanization due to the quantity of impervious surfaces like roads and sidewalks in cities.”
As well, any kind of pollinator mapping would have to take into consideration the different kinds of pollinators. “We don’t actually know which bees need what. Of the hundreds of ground-nesting bees they are all going to have different needs,” Scott says.
What’s more, “Insects are difficult to nail down because they are poorly studied, the distribution are unknown for many species, and their population sizes respond greatly to seasonal and annual climate variation and so long terms studies are needed.”
Scott explains that spatial analysis is only one small part of how wild bee ecology and diversity is investigated: "We need more research that investigates the drivers of patterns in urban wild bee diversity and how their populations can be supported and enhanced.
Hamilton Pollinator Protection Plan?
It appears that the work we are doing through the Pollinator Paradise Project is on track with the Toronto PPS with our Pollinator Corridor, our free Certification Program and the Monarch Awards for gardeners who garden for nature, now in its third year, and recognized by Mayor Eisenberger.
This year, we’re about to launch our very own, made in Hamilton “Pollinator Protection Plan” campaign to make Hamilton the best city to raise a pollinator.
We hope that you will join us both in planting more habitat, as well as supporting policy that will protect and enhance these mighty little critter populations, for the good of us all.
Stay tuned for updates!
**About the Toronto Biodiversity Strategy
The Toronto Biodiversity Strategy has been in the works officially since September, 2015. It reflects the policies in the Official Plan. The City-lead draft will go before the City's Parks and Environment Committee (a Standing Committee that reports to Council) in May of 2018. A public consultation process will follow occur until the fall of 2018.
Kelly Snow, Environmental Planner explains that the Committee passed a motion on endangered species half a year ago, at which point, "We wanted to make biodiversity protection in the City of Toronto broader."
The Strategy pulls together under one umbrella, several different initiatives including green infrastructure like green roofs, "so it's a high level strategy, bringing together a more concerted effort, and a preliminary list."
The list's areas of focus include:
-Function (example pollination).
-Taxa (for example, the Bees of Toronto publication (distributed free of charge through the public library) were very popular with the Toronto residents.
-Species (different scales)
Kelly suggests that should we be interested in creating our own Hamilton Biodiversity Strategy, we might want to consider partnering with institutions and schools, as well as seek out a champion on Council.