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!

Ottawa outdoors in summer, naturally!

Want to get outdoors in nature in the Ottawa area this summer? Meet other nature-inspired people? Here’s a few places to start.

Outdoor activities & events: Ottawa outdoor clubs & activities (scroll down to see the list) | Meetups | MEC Ottawa Event Calendar — hiking, biking, sailing, skiing, you name it

Camping near Ottawa: Gatineau Park | Quebec Parks | Ontario Parks | and yes, there’s more, but only for those who want to leave no trace (2)

Stay in town: Rent a bike and explore (more) | Ottawa walking toursNative plant gardensOttawa parks & nature (more) | More Outdoor Activities in Ottawa | Volunteer in Ottawa

Protecting Wild Bees: Workshop and Film

Protecting Wild Bees: Workshop and Film
Wed Jul 13, 2016, Ottawa, ON (and Sunday too)

Join Friends of the Earth Canada at Fletcher Wildlife Garden at 7-8PM on Wednesday, July 13th and 9-11AM on Sunday, July 17 to learn how to protect native and wild bees. Includes a showing of a new documentary film (A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee) and a tutorial on how to participate in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count. On Sunday, we will be going out into the garden to practice taking photos of and identifying bees. Everyone is welcome!  http://www.ofnc.ca/fletcher/

Map: https://goo.gl/maps/1btYHcY9S3J2

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Film premiere: Love thy Nature

Screenings

Sunday April 10 to Wednesday Apr 13, 2016, Ottawa, Ontario

Join us for the Canadian premieres of the award-winning documentary “Love Thy Nature” screening at Ottawa’s Mayfair Theatre on April 10, 11, and 13 at 6:30pm.  Watch the 2-minute trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7yljPRMZJA

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Canoeing the Gatineau River

09Ottawa is a mecca for enjoying nature and outdoor activities. Three rivers, the Ottawa RiverGatineau River, Rideau River and Rideau Canal are great for canoeing, kayaking, sailing and swimming.

Canoes can be rented or purchased at stores such as MEC, Paddle Shack or other local outfitters (2).  Or join a local outdoors club (2) and go hiking, skiing or canoeing with them. If you’re a beginner, the Ottawa River Canoe Club offers a one-day course, Recreational Canoeing Basics; Paddlesport will also be offering lessons in 2013, as well as the Ottawa Canoe Camping Club.

You can also walk, hike or bike along any of these rivers: see the Rideau Trail Association, Ottawa Capital Pathway and the village of Wakefield, Quebec, which is on the banks of the Gatineau River about 30 minutes north of Ottawa.

Please leave no trace while walking, canoeing or camping. And if you’d like to help protect  these great rivers, check out these local organizations: Ottawa Riverkeeper, Save the Gatineau, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Algonquin to Adirondacks and other local groups.

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