GHC’s Pollinator Garden on the Cartersville Campus
Jackie Belwood (rev. 10/5/2017)
A Model Pollinator Garden at Georgia Highlands College
In May 2014, a small demonstration pollinator garden was installed on Georgia Highlands College’s Cartersville campus. It comprises 11 raised beds, covers 250 square feet, and has more than 30 species of native perennials that were chosen because they bloom from spring to fall and attract, and provide resources for, many types of pollinators.
In three short years, that garden has become a haven for pollinators including bumble bees, other native bees, domestic honeybees, butterflies (including Monarchs), moths, and hummingbirds, and has developed into its own ecosystem. For example, predatory animals including spiders, assassin bugs, praying mantises, and insect-eating wasps have moved in to control garden pests. Numerous bird species can also be seen their eating insects and seeds.
The garden serves as a small, outdoor, “hands-on” laboratory, and research and education space, for anyone interested in science (particularly pollination ecology) or an inspirational retreat for anyone interested in nature.
This garden was installed, with the help of Green Highlands (GHC’s student organization concerned with environmental and sustainability issues), as part of a much larger project — the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership (GAPP; www.gapp.org). GAPP was started by Dr. Jackie Belwood, Associate Professor of Biology at Georgia Highlands College, and Dennis Krusac, Endangered Species Biologist with the USDA Forest Service.
Ecologically Significant Landscape Level
GAPP was formed in 2011 to encourage the restoration, development, and registration of pollinator habitats in a 25-mile radius area (1.2 million acres) around downtown Atlanta.
The impetus for this was the rapid loss of habitat and increase in pesticide use caused by the housing boom of the 1990s and early 2000s. This resulted in the removal of tree canopy/green spaces averaging about 54 acres/day and an increase in impervious surfaces averaging 27 acres/day. Over this 20-year period, approximately 400,000 acres of tree canopy/green space were lost with an increase of 200,000 acres of impervious surface.
Additionally, GAPP serves as a model for how other geographic areas – large or small – can engage all its citizens, and entities such as schools, parks, and businesses, in pollinator habitat conservation.
Key components of GAPP are to establish as many pollinator gardens as possible, use native species, rescue such plants from sites to be developed, control invasive species, establish community gardens, educate the public, engage “citizen scientists” in research and data collection, promote conservation, and map pollinator-friendly gardens through a website.
What’s So Important About Pollinators?
Pollinators — bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, some bats, and other organisms that feed on nectar and pollen — produce one-third of the food we eat. These organisms also sustain ecosystems and produce natural timber, fiber, and other resources by helping plants reproduce. Without pollinators, 25% of all bird and mammal species would not have food to eat. Moreover, our own food supply, agricultural economies, and surrounding economically important landscapes would collapse. This is important in Georgia because agriculture is our state’s most important industry.
Global pollinator populations are declining – in some cases to drastic lows — due to habitat loss, overuse of pesticides, the spread of non-native invasive species, the preponderance of cultivated ornamental plants that do not benefit pollinators, diseases and pests, and climate change.
Funding for GAPP is limited, so synergy through partnerships is the key to success. GAPP currently consists of more than 30 partner organizations and has 400 registered gardens, including 130 schoolyard habitats created with funds raised through partners.
Connecting People with Pollinators
The GAPP website (http://gapp.org) was produced and is maintained by the Atlanta Botanical Garden and helps GAPP connect to, and educate, the public about pollinators and register gardens using a map developed at Georgia State University
In March 2015, Belwood and Krusac presented information on GAPP to The White House Pollinator Health Task Force in Washington D.C. Also in March of that year, GAPP was awarded a “USDA Wings Across the Americas,” 2015 Urban Conservation Award (https://www.fs.fed.us/global/wings/awards/2015/WATA_booklet_2015.pdf; p.29). In late August 2015, project collaborator Dr. Jenny Cruse (formerly with the Atlanta Botanical Garden) presented a paper on GAPP at the 6th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Manchester, England.
In August 2016, GHC’s pollinator garden was filmed as part of a program on gardening for beneficial insects for the PBS series Growing A Greener World (http://www.growingagreenerworld.com/episode-804-gardening-butterflies-beneficial-insects/).
One of the goals of GAPP is to serve as a model for large-scale pollinator conservation efforts that can be replicated in other geographic areas. In late 2016, the Chattanooga Area Pollinator Partnership (CHAPP, https://chapollinator.org/) was formed and mimics the mission and educational activities of GAPP.
GAPP, and GHC’s involvement in it, are highlighted in a traveling exhibit on pollinators that is invited to appear yearly at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and has also been displayed at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, Smith-Gilbert Gardens (Kennesaw), Environmental Education Alliance of Georgia, Georgia, Master Gardeners Association annual conference, Carter Presidential Library (Atlanta), National Geographic Society (Washington, DC), and Cincinnati Nature Center (Ohio).
Funds and materials to establish GHC’s garden were provided by Green Highlands, Keep Bartow Beautiful, Jackie Belwood and Dennis Krusac, and the Division of Natural Sciences at Georgia Highlands College. For more information on GHC’s pollinator garden or GAPP, contact Dr. Jackie Belwood at GHC (email@example.com).