March 11, 2017 by Species Ecology
Environmental importance of the butterflies and other animals
From deep geological time span-about 65 million years, there exist an intricate relationship between plants and insects. Since then, this intricate balance are making simultaneous adjustments resulting in a process of co-evolution of plants with their pollinators (bees, wasps, butterflies, moths). Pollination is a strategy that help acquire the plants to propagate their offspring to disperse and the continuity on earth as the plants can not move to breed like animals do. This mechanism was found in 90% of plant species, including agricultural and crop plants for human consumption. Insects and some birds such as hummingbirds, also benefit from this relationship because the nectar on flowers may be their only source of food. Some plants posses adaptation mechanism to attract insects and hummingbirds for example odor-generating structures (Osmophores), flowers with bright attractive colors, nectar-secreting structures (nectarines). Without the conservation measure that focus on pollinators the existence of biodiversity and its evolutionary continuation process may not be possible in the long run and human survival that depends on wise of ecosystem conservation will virtually be at risk.
Why are fewer butterflies and hummingbirds?
Not too long ago, no more than few decades back, we had plentiful abundance of the diversity of pollinating species in our gardens and parks and it was a common occurrence. Today, most of these species diversity is drastically plummeted. One can say that in rural landscape the pollinators are declining due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier and disappearance of native forests. The widespread unsustainable spray of pesticides and herbicides in our croplands and also due to the monoculture cash crop plantation regimes in the name of so called economic development are largely attributed to the dramatic decline of potentially irreplaceable natural pollinators from our wild lands. To illustrate the magnitude of the seriousness we could look back to the negative consequences from the North American experience. In California vast acres of natural habitats are converted to cash crop monoculture plantation in the form of agro-economic production of almonds for the chocolates. The pesticides that are sprayed in these large areas poisoned wild bee populations that had an important role in nature: they were pollinating species.
In urban areas, the factors leading to decline in pollinators are muti-faceted. In one hand, increasing urbanization, loss of green space, the use of pesticides in gardens and public lighting (light trap for nocturnal insects like moths) cause loss of pollinators forcing them to move to other less populated habitats. Compounding to that, since the dawn of colonization in Argentina, the ratio of Society & Nature was negatively linked to undermine and devalue animal species and native plants hence there was a trend to replace the native endemic species with exotic non-native one. It was a disposable luxury and an ornamental hobbies for European settlers who took pride on their efforts on newly colonized neo-tropical lands. Many species were introduced voluntarily Europeans hence displacing the native species that were threaded in a delicate ecological niche. These non native exotic species become invasive and significantly increased biodiversity loss. The implication is introduction of non native species can pose significant threats to endemic flora and fauna across the tropical regions thereby can paralyze the evolutionary processes and can hinder ecological services we receive as goods and services from native tropical forest lands.
The question is: How can we prevent the decline of populations of pollinators?
Making gardens with native plants that attract pollinators. Using native shrubs with flowers of different colors even make a sector with white flowers to attract moths like Petunia axillaries. Select plants that provide flowers throughout the year hence to ensure that butterflies and hummingbirds do not migrate to other feeding grounds. Avoid placing artificial bird feeders or sugar water for hummingbirds because these will discourage hummingbirds to go to the wild flowers in the garden. It is also important not to use pesticides in the garden. In Argentina there are about 1,300 species of butterflies and 30 species of hummingbirds. It is important to preserve these pollinating species by taking ‘local’ individual level conservation measures that we all can adopt in our garden and patio in some scale.
Plants to attract butterflies and hummingbirds:
• Paper flowers or zinnia
• Carqueja (Baccharis sp)
• Odor Chilca
• Ducklings (Aristolochia fiambriata)
• San Juan (Pyrostegia venusta)
• Comb mono (Pithecoctenium echinatum)
• Palan Palan (Nicotiana glauca)
• South Alijaba (Fuchsia magellanica)
• North Alijaba (Bolivian Fuchsia)
• Passiflora or passion fruit (Passiflora caerulea)
• Pate (Scutia buxifolia)
• foxtail (Setaria sp)
• Bromeliads and cactus
So the words are so clear that the poet wrote:
“In the gardens grow native plants can leave more quietly than is possible in a mixture of plants brought from many parts of the world …
Then again ordered nature a little, or a lot, and it is possible that many native plants grow and bloom well. There may be more birds, more butterflies”.
“Native Plants: Essential for Nature and Humanity” Ricardo Barbetti.