The Importance of a Pollinator Garden

A pollinator garden attracts pollinator species such as bees, moths, and hummingbirds with plants that provide pollen and nectar. Pollination plays an essential role in maintaining our ecosystem. Without pollinators, our world would look remarkably different.

Under the capable leadership of our Educational Garden Project Coordinator, the Office of Sustainability Initiatives maintains three native pollinator gardens, including the Cox Hall, WoodPEC, and Theology Garden). These gardens benefit the Emory ecosystem‌ in various ways.

Pollinator Gardens and Plants

Pollinating species are necessary for wild plant reproductive success and fitness. More than 80% of the world’s flowering plants need a pollinator to survive.

Pollinators are a key part of the food web as they form complex pollination webs. One plant can receive many pollinators from different animal species and one pollinator can visit many plants of different species. This web provides redundancy and allows for greater plant genetic diversity, which can buffer against abiotic and biotic stress, anthropological disturbance, or the incursion of invasive species.

Pollinator Gardens and the Ecosystem

Pollinators are important in wildlife food webs because they facilitate the production of seeds, nuts, and fruits. They are also prey for higher-level consumers such as raccoons, bears, and birds.

The plant population provides food and shelter for many animals. Herbaceous perennial and annual plants offer food and nesting sites for bees and songbirds. Native plants and pollinators have co-evolved for a mutually beneficial relationship that maximizes cross-pollination success and resource intake. Pollination is a keystone interaction for nearly all terrestrial biomes.

Pollinator Gardens and Agriculture

Pollinators are essential to our agriculture and crop populations. Pollinators improve the quality and quantity of farmers’ crop yields. A well-pollinated plant will produce larger, tastier, and more uniform fruit. The western honey bee ranks as the most frequent single species pollinator for crops worldwide.

Pollinators add resilience to the agriculture population system through their crop pollination services. Approximately 35% of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators. If bees were to vanish from existence, we would not have strawberries, apples, carrots, almond nuts, honey and countless more food items many consider a staple in their diet.

Pollinator Gardens and Global Warming

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels, biological materials, and certain chemical reactions (e.g. cement production). The buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere traps heat and contributes to climate change.

Flowering plants can combat this greenhouse gas effect through carbon sequestration. During photosynthesis, plants take in carbon dioxide along with water to generate food and expel oxygen. The carbon collected is sequestered into the ground. Not only does this process help manage a warming atmosphere, it also ensures that there is enough oxygen for aerobic life on Earth to flourish.

Pollinator Gardens and Water Purification

Pollinator gardens help prevent runoff pollution by promoting the growth of ground cover. Runoff is a major source of water pollution. It can carry fertilizers, animal waste, and other contaminants into our local creeks and rivers.

The roots of plants can improve the soil’s ability to soak up water. This allows the runoff to be absorbed and filtered by the soil before it can land into a lake or river. Ground cover fights against erosion by gripping the soil firmly in place.

Pollinator Gardens and the Economy

Pollinators contribute to $577 billion annually in global food production. If you factor in the medicines, biofuels, fibers, and raw materials pollinators provide, pollination services are likely worth more than three trillion dollars!

Beyond food, pollinators like bees contribute to the economy through the products they create. Without honey bees, we wouldn’t have beeswax, shea butter, propolis, or royal jelly.

Pollinator Gardens and Beauty 

Pollinator gardens can beautify your space. The pollination process promotes the growth of biodiverse plants which can create a colorful landscape for our viewing pleasure.

Pollinators themselves offer their own beauty. Who doesn’t love looking at the intricate design of a monarch butterfly’s wings or the colorful plumage of a hummingbird? While beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, our ecosystem would certainly be less colorful without pollinators and the plants they pollinate.

With the population of pollinators declining globally, it is more important than ever that we support these essential species. June marks our office’s Pollinator Protection Campaign. Emory University has long worked on protecting our native pollinator population. We were the first university in the nation to ban neonicotinoid pesticides and the purchase of plants pre-treated with neonicotinoids.

Learn more about what Emory is doing to help native pollinators and how you can get involved  by learning about Emory’s Educational Gardens and our Pollinator Protection program.

One thought on “The Importance of a Pollinator Garden

  1. This article beautifully underscores the multifaceted importance of pollinator gardens, weaving together ecological, agricultural, economic, and aesthetic benefits. It’s a compelling call to action, especially in the face of declining global pollinator populations. The emphasis on Emory University’s Pollinator Protection Campaign highlights the proactive steps being taken to safeguard these vital species. From enhancing biodiversity to mitigating climate change, pollinator gardens emerge as a cornerstone of sustainable living. As stewards of the environment, it’s incumbent upon us to nurture and protect these gardens, ensuring a vibrant future for both humanity and the natural world.

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