Here’s an easy form of restoration for city-dwellers: plant urban gardens to increase the diversity of bees and butterflies.

Urban Ecosystems published a study about the factors that shape the diversity of pollinators in urban areas.

The authors of this study examined 18 community gardens distributed in the Bronx and East Harlem, addressing factors such as sunlight, total garden size, tree canopy cover, presence of paths, and floral and vegetable areas. Bees were collected by hand-netting and bowl-traps, and butterflies were counted by eye.

The study documented 24 species/taxa of butterflies and 54 species of bees. This seems like a pretty high number for such an urbanized area. The study also encountered wide variation in species diversity among gardens.

The most important influences on diversity of pollinators, it turned out, were the diversity of vegetables and flowers planted in the gardens and the amount of sunlight. The latter seems obvious, but as the authors of the study pointed out, since urban areas are full of tall buildings that block sunlight, it would be a good idea to encourage rooftop gardens.

I especially liked the last line of the article in Conservation Maven: “Future research involving urban gardens could be extended to include city residents as ‘citizen scientists,’ exposing them to their local ecological systems.”

How is this restoration?

Urban restoration, in my opinion, involves encouraging as much species diversity as possible in urban areas and exposing city-dwellers to as many “natural experiences” as they can stand. Clearly, cities will be truncated ecosystems, but there’s no reason we can’t have far more diversity of plants and insects and other animals in cities than we do now. The question is not so much whether urban ecosystems can be made more diverse, but how much diversity human beings can stand.

Source: “Bees and Butterflies in Harlem: Increasing Pollinator Diversity in Urban Areas,” Conservation Maven, April 26, 2010

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