Study Reveals Fascinating Findings and Important Data on Pollinators
Trustees Thank Edey Foundation and Local Island Volunteers for their Support
Vineyard Haven, MA – June 11, 2012 – With National Native Pollinators Week* approaching June 18-24, what better time for The Trustees of Reservations (The Trustees), the nation’s oldest statewide land conservation organization, to announce the completion of an extensive two-year Native Pollinator Research Study conducted on Martha’s Vineyard? The study was led, thanks to two years of generous support from the Edey Foundation and by Dr. Paul Goldstein of the University of Maryland and the Smithsonian Institution, a respected scientist in the field of entomology and the recognized authority on the insects of Martha’s Vineyard.
Entitled “Understanding Native Bees for Conservation, Monitoring, and Management,” the study documented 167 species of native bees on Martha’s Vineyard alone, representing 49% of the 342 species known from Massachusetts (there are approximately 4,000 species nationwide.) This is the highest documented concentration of bees yet recorded from an Atlantic coast offshore island. Martha’s Vineyard represents a New England hotspot for regionally rare and threatened invertebrate wildlife, especially moths and butterflies. This study corroborates the island’s rich pollinator fauna, allowing The Trustees to better understand the core diversity of native pollinators on the Vineyard, share data and compile suggestions for best management practices of pollinator-friendly landscapes among staff, partners and like-minded conservation organizations. The ongoing analysis of data will also inform sound land use practices island-wide.
Native pollinators are a crucial part of our local plant and food production. Many of the roughly 340 species of bees native to Massachusetts provide important pollination services, often as the primary pollinators for many of our fruits and vegetables, as well as the plants that compose our native ecosystems. The imported honey bees familiar to most people are not native to North America and are brought in locally for the specific purposes of generating honey and pollinating the few New England crops farmed on a large scale, such as cranberries in southeastern Massachusetts or blueberries in Maine. They are unable, however, to pollinate many local food crops and plants and have become vulnerable to the syndrome of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Scientists and industry experts are intensifying their focus on understanding native pollinator species as more reliable and viable alternative pollinators to honey bees.
While organizations like The Trustees are working to promote and enhance habitat for native pollinators, these insects are also unfortunately susceptible to threats that include pesticides, pathogens brought in with domestic bees and, most importantly, habitat loss and systemic threats. Primary among these threats are loss of habitat and the overabundance of deer, which decimate wildflowers and host plants needed by bees and other pollinating insects. Maintaining a diversity of native bee species is critical to sustaining healthy, resilient local ecosystems, landscapes and food production.
“This project has represented a unique collaborative effort on the part of The Trustees of Reservations, museum scientists, and staff at participating conservation organizations and state agencies: Massachusetts Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, Polly Hill Arboretum, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, and the Vineyard Conservation Society,” says Paul Goldstein. “The study would not have been possible without the assistance from numerous island-based volunteers and property managers who generously donated their time and allowed access to their properties over the past two years to help us collect an estimated 20,000 bees in over 7,500 traps set at more than 50 sites around the island.”
Key participants included Sharon Britton, Tom Hodgson of West Tisbury, Laurisa Rich of Chilmark, and Albert Fisher of Aquinnah. In addition, Dr. John Ascher of the American Museum of Natural History was critical not only in identifying specimens but also, with the help of Eli Wyman and Cerina Gordon of West Tisbury, but also in an enormous ongoing effort to enter specimen records into an online database. More than 10,000 specimens of Dukes County bees have now been physically barcoded, databased and geo-referenced online in conjunction with an ongoing multi-institutional project based at the American Museum of Natural History designed to generate a repository of worldwide bee diversity data. Individual species records (from the Vineyard and elsewhere) can be viewed online at the Discover Life website (http://www.discoverlife.org/). In addition to the sizeable reference collection of bees and other pollinating insects housed at the museum, a growing reference collection of native bees is now maintained at The Trustees of Reservations regional office in Vineyard Haven.
The results of this work will be discussed by Paul Goldstein at several presentations, including an upcoming July 20, 2012, Island Grown Initiative event being held at Polly Hill Arboretum. The event will offer an opportunity for the public to learn more about the important role of native pollinators and how to sustain them in native and managed landscapes.
“Encouraging a diversity of native bee species is so important in sustaining healthy, resilient local ecosystems and landscapes and for agricultural production,” says Russ Hopping, Ecology Program Director for The Trustees. “It is also an important part of The Trustees ecological programming and mission to help foster more sustainable communities.” Off-island, The Trustees has launched several native pollinator programs at properties around the state to encourage native bees and pollinators. At The Trustees’ Powisset Farm in Dover, The Trustees have planted “bee pastures” with help from the National Resources Conservation Service. These pastures are planted with a variety of native flowers and grasses to provide an abundant source of food and nesting habitat for native bees in close proximity to food crops. At Bird Park in Walpole, The Trustees have reduced our lawn mowing in a section of the park, and, in partnership with local middle schools, are planting native wildflowers to help attract wildlife including pollinators. Elsewhere The Trustees’ habitat restoration and management on its properties, especially grasslands and barrens throughout the state, protect significant habitat for myriad pollinators as indicated by inventories such as the one on Martha’s Vineyard. The following links offer additional ways to help pollinators, including what flowers to plant, how to make bee nesting boxes and learn about what pollinators might be visiting your yard: http://www.pollinator.org/ and http://www.xerces.org/. For a summary of the Martha’s Vineyard Study visit The Natural World homepage on The Trustees website thetrustees.org
Going forward, The Trustees hope to be able to use the data collected to better plan for the sound management of their properties, evaluate recent habitat restoration efforts, and offer opportunities to engage visitors and volunteers in native pollinator research and promotion.
About the Trustees of Reservations on Martha’s Vineyard
The Trustees of Reservations own and manage five beautiful, ecologically significant properties on Martha’s Vineyard including Mytoi garden, Wasque Reservation, Cape Pogue Wildlife Refuge, Long Point Wildlife Refuge, and Menemsha Hills and partner with the Commonwealth to manage Leland Beach and with Dukes County to manage Norton Point Beach. The Trustees management includes ongoing care and maintenance so these properties can remain open for the public to enjoy. It also includes shorebird protection and restoration of rare habitats, rare species, and sustainable and resilient ecosystems. The Trustees also offer programs and workshops for all ages at these properties throughout the year, including volunteer opportunities, special events and fishing, kayaking, lighthouse, and natural history tours. For the Islands Regional office, please call 508.693.7662.
More about The Trustees of Reservations
The Trustees of Reservations is the nation’s oldest statewide land conservation organization founded by open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891 to “hold in trust” and care for properties of scenic, cultural and natural significance. Supported by members, donors and thousands of volunteers, The Trustees own and manage 106 spectacular “reservations” located on more than 26,000 acres in 75 communities throughout Massachusetts for current and future generations to enjoy. The Trustees work to promote healthy, active, and green communities locally across Massachusetts by providing hundreds of year-round programs, events and engagement opportunities for all ages. Most property entry fees, programs and events are free-of-charge or discounted for members. Accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, The Trustees are an established leader in the conservation movement and model for other land trusts nationally and internationally. One of the largest nonprofits in Massachusetts, The Trustees employ 150 full-time, 49 regular part-time, and 400 seasonal staff with expertise in ecology, education, historic resources, land protection, conservation, land management, and planning. To find out more or to become a member or volunteer, please contact www.thetrustees.org.
*Four years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of the final week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. In just three years Pollinator Week has grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. Pollinating animals, including bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and others, are vital to our delicate ecosystem, supporting terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watershed, and more. Therefore, Pollinator Week is a chance to reach as many people as possible with the message of the importance of pollinators.