An interview with Pollinator Partnership Canada

We got the chance to sit down and chat with Pollinator Partnership Canada’s (P2C) director, Victoria Wojcik, and see how P2C is helping pollinators—bees, butterflies and other creatures—to build resilience in the face of growing challenges.

Wojcik started off by detailing how crucial pollinators are to our society: “Every terrestrial system is pollinator dependent, the degree varies, but it’s really high… 85-95%.” This means that 85-95% of plants depend on pollinators to survive, and we humans depend on them too.

Pollinators are mainly considered for their role in food production, but they also play a part in the production of textiles and fibers for clothing, furniture, pharmaceuticals, and other goods.

Despite their importance, the driver of pollinator population decline is habitat loss, which is made worse by pesticide use, pests and disease, invasive species and climate change. Vital ecosystems are being transformed into different land uses, including residential neighbourhoods and commercial centres. Development of agricultural land is twice as bad—taking away from pollinator habitats and adding to the risk of pesticide pressure.

“Every terrestrial system is pollinator dependent, the degree varies, but it’s really high… 85-95%”

Climate change is another factor impacting pollinators, causing lasting negative temperatures and changing precipitation levels. Wojcik described how insects tend to follow cues based on temperature; with climate change, this risks a “dissociation between when plants are normally in bloom, and when their pollinators emerge.” This could result in both species struggling—plants being pollinated late and pollinators missing out on food sources.

Wojcik emphasises that actions to save pollinators are not a lost cause. While climate change will likely cause us to lose some species and declines in some populations, there will also be some that thrive. The key, she said, is the choices we make.

“What helps pollinators is everyone making better choices, different choices that lessen the impacts that are harmful”

P2C’s goal is to help people make these better choices. Their Ecoregional Planting Guides help gardeners by detailing native pollinators found in the area and lists of native plants they prefer. In partnership with Bee City Canada, cities and schools are becoming certified bee-friendly—meaning they’re actively working towards a better pollinator future. Further, P2C runs a Pollinator Stewardship Certification program to help citizens take a more active role in pollinator conservation. The program involves educating participants about pollinator ecology, habitat creation, and public education strategies.

According to Wojcik, everyone can help pollinators in three simple but meaningful ways. These include:

  1. Planting native species—Even one plant will make a difference. If everyone in the city of Ottawa planted one native species, there would be more than 1.4 million new plants!
  2. Shopping local and sustainable—This helps decrease your individual food miles and reduces pesticide pressure on pollinators.
  3. Spreading the word—Inform people about the challenges pollinators face and what everyone can do to help.

Let’s work together and help pollinators thrive!

The dog-strangling vine invasion

Dog-strangling vine in Kanata (Photo credits to Green Ottawa)

Don’t worry, your dog is safe

Contrary to the name, dog-strangling vine will not harm your pet, but rather outcompetes or “strangles” native species and young saplings. As a particularly aggressive invasive species, it has been spreading rapidly throughout the province.

What does it look like?

Dog-strangling vine (Photo credits to Green Ottawa)

Stem: Typically grows 1–2 meters tall and wraps around nearby structures

Leaves: Grow on opposite sides of the stem, are about 12 cm long and are oval shaped with pointed tips

Flowers: Range from pink to dark purple, star shaped (5 petals and between 5–9 mm long)

Seed pods: Bean shaped, about 4–7 cm long and release feathery white seeds towards the end of summer

Why is it a problem?

By taking over landscapes, it not only threatens native plants but all species that rely on them and the ecosystem they create. The monarch butterfly is once such species being threatened. They lay their eggs on dog-strangling vine (confusing it with milkweed) and the caterpillars starve, unable to eat the plant. Further, browsing animals like deer avoid eating it, allowing for its range to grow (choking out native plants even more), while the roots and leaves may also be toxic for livestock.

How to remove it

Dog-strangling vine needs to be removed before it begins to outcompete native species. As cutting or mowing the plant will cause it to grow faster and flower again, uprooting is the best means of removal. Digging out as much root as possible will also have a substantial impact. The City of Ottawa advises that plant material be dried out at the site (if possible), placed in a black garbage bag in the sun for at least a week and thrown out with the garbage.

Do not burn the plant material or place in the green bin/compost — it will continue to spread.

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Check out our sources for a more in-depth review of dog-strangling vine!

The Ottawa landfill is filling up

What will happen now?

As our landfill is reaching capacity, the City of Ottawa is creating a new garbage management plan.

How can you help out? Check out the Solid Waste Master Plan on the City of Ottawa website where you can:

  • View their ideas, timeline and reports for each phase of the process
  • Ask questions and receive responses
  • Learn when the next round of community consultations are taking place and how you can participate, to voice your thoughts

While you’re at it, take a look at these quick tips to reducing waste!

Keep active as Ontario opens up again

Keep up the active transportation you perfected throughout COVID!

(Photo by Florian Schmetz)

Excited to finally… go buy that sweater or pair of pants in person? Rather than driving all the time, think about walking or biking instead. Staying active is so vital to our health — strengthening both our mental and physical well-being. And in a world where we work from home, it’s even more important!

If your destination feels a little far, try combining the route with the public transportation — buses or the LRT. Take transit partway and walk/bike the remainder. Consider walking/biking one way, and the other with transit. Or go as far as you can before hopping on transit.

Want your outing to be happy and fun? It’s a great idea to plan your route, prepare for the weather, bring along some water and a snack.

Before you head out, take a look at some of these!