Restoration in Support of Pollinators
Piecing together the Story of Place and Taking ACTION:
The nectar landscape and restoration.
The Sky Island region of Southern Arizona is biologically diverse, but how do we assess its ecological health amongst seeming abundance? In this 3-year restoration and monitoring project, we discovered gaps between hummingbird and flower phenology, and worked to restore landscapes to fill in those gaps. Results showed that at one site, 40 plants per acre made a significant impact to forage available for hummingbirds during crucial times of year. This project shows that targeted restoration efforts and pollinator gardens can have a big impact to the health of pollinators.
BR’s Restoration Process: Watch the slideshow to see what we learned in 3 years worth of supporting hummingbirds:
Discussion: We found that 254 surviving plants at a 6.64 hectacre site extended the bloom period and filled gaps in floral resource availability at Harshaw Creek. We learned that planting in July after monsoon rains begin, creating microhabitats for plants, and properly matching plant species to current site conditions increased survival of plantings. We stress the importance of designing restoration projects as experiments, monitoring, and adaptively managing long-term projects for increased efficacy.
A paper from Wethington & Russell, 2003 in Condor, showed that Black-Chinned Hummingbird nesting success could be positively impacted by increased floral resource availability. They also showed Anna’s Hummingbird populations have the capacity to rapidly respond to increased forage (Wethington & Russell, 2003). See Hummingbird Monitoring Network for more information on this work. These hummingbird researchers are currently analyzing impacts to populations from these plantings.
Finally, the entire project provided educational opportunities for 115 volunteers, who spent 1000 hours, created 15 jobs for people of all ages and backgrounds. During each planting event, volunteer and paid crews, learned about hummingbird conservation and how to implement these techniques in their watersheds. Hands-on education and training is part of a growing restoration economic model.
Next steps of the project include continued monitoring of survival and flowering phenology, and eventually a journal article. Future research could investigate the maximum and minimum number of plantings that could make a difference to the nectar landscape, and a nectar study to quantify the difference in resource availability by species of flower.
Thanks to our project partners:
Western Hummingbird Partnership *US Forest Service * Environment for the Americas * Biophilia Foundation * Hummingbird Monitoring Network * Cuenca los Ojos/El Coronado Ranch * The Nature Conservancy – Sonoita Creek Preserve * Deep Dirt Farm Institute * Bureau of Land Management – Safford Office * Windsong Peace & Leadership Center