Costa Rica is home to over 400 species of native wild bees and about 50 species of hummingbirds. But habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change threaten the health and survival of pollinators around the world. How can we better protect these important species?
More than three-quarters of the world’s crops depend on pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. These animals provide essential ecosystem services and play a crucial role in the production of many fruits and vegetables. But a changing climate, pesticide use, and habitat loss or degradation threaten pollinator communities, although the full impact of these threats is not well understood. For example, warming temperatures could force pollinator species to shift their ranges to higher elevations, which could impact agricultural production, or it could be that a changing climate will cause these species to disappear altogether.
One way to mitigate the effects of climate change is by planting “agroforests”—or forests that grow in pastures around or among crops—that could benefit pollinator communities. As part of this expedition, you will work with local communities to plant trees to create agroforests, which could not only help pollinator communities, but could provide livelihoods for low-income families in the region.
From the rugged tropical wet forest of Las Cruces in Coto Brus to a mountainous region in the south of Costa Rica called Coto Brus, you will join the research team to investigate how threats to bees and butterflies will affect the critical pollination services they provide.
HOW YOU WILL HELP
When you arrive, the researchers will provide you with information on working with pollinator species. Depending on your team’s location, field work includes the following tasks:
COLLECT AND OBSERVE BEES
Hike up the mountain to set out bee traps (small bowls filled with soapy water that attract the bees). You will then return to the sites to collect the pollinators to be sorted and observed back in the lab.
Create a tree nursery. Plant trees in pastures to begin the process of reforestation.
PLANT SQUASH OR PUMPKIN PLANTS
Observe and count pollinator visits to these and nearby plants at the different stations where they are set up.