Pollinators are more Important than You Might have Thought - they are our Natural Allies in Storing Carbon in the Environment

2 Jun 2021
Bees on flowers

As long ago as the Hertfordshire County Council Meeting on 16th July 2019 the Liberal Democrats took a lead in improving bio-diversity in terms of encouraging wild flowers at the roadside, thereby protecting pollinators of all kinds. At that meeting the Liberal Democrat County Councillor for Royston West & Rural, Steve Jarvis, who also represents the Weston & Sandon Ward in North Herts District, proposed a motion calling on HCC to bring forward proposals to manage highway maintenance in ways that improve bio-diversity.

Following this initiative, by August 2020, the County Council had put a Pollinator Strategy in place to encourage the development of a greater extent of pollinator-friendly habitats on the Rural Estates (mostly tenanted farms) and within its parks and nature reserves.

It then introduce an Enhanced Vergeside Maintenance regime for highways. Suitable rural swathe-cut verges on single carriageways are now cut once to the full width of the verge between the road edge and the boundary hedge or fence, between mid-July and mid-August and with the grass cuttings being removed. The extent of these areas is ca. 250,000 square metres with council basing its practice on The Good Verge Guide published by Plantlife, a national conservation charity. The remainder of the rural swathe-cut verges would be cut as usual but now only once a year instead of twice.

The modification of the verges and the development of meadow-land flowering plants will take a full 3 years, but already this year there has been a noticeable improvement in many places.

Of course, apart from the visual attraction of meadow flowering plants, these changes are important in encouraging pollinators, upon which much agricultural and horticultural activity crucially depends. Recently Prof Jeff Ollerton, of the University of Northamptonshire, writing in the New Scientist, has pointed out that that 90% of the 350,000 or so flowering plants are pollinated mostly by insects but also by bats and the smaller birds. By protecting the pollinators these plants become better established and the general process of their growth and life cycles will inevitably lock up carbon dioxide in their woody stems, roots, fruit and seed casings, bulbs and tubers. Most of this is then destined, one way or another, to enter the soil - the planet's second most important carbon store.

So not only does the protection of pollinators safeguard our food crops and add to the beauty of the natural world but it is also adding to the numbers of the countless species and organisms of the mostly unseen and unnoticed lifeforms which are our natural allies in stabilising the climate and saving the environment from catastrophe.