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Sansad TV: Nature And You- Why Butterflies Matter?

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Introduction:

Butterflies are the wild indicators of the ecosystem; these insects tell us everything about the healthier ecosystem. These are effective pollinators, butterflies visit the flower to eat nectar and this is mutually beneficial relationship.

Ecosystem value:

  • Butterflies are indicators of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems.
  • They indicate a wide range of other invertebrates, which comprise over two-thirds of all species.
  • Areas rich in butterflies are rich in other invertebrates. These collectively provide a wide range of environmental benefits, including pollination and natural pest control.
  • Butterflies are an important element of the food chain and are prey for birds, bats and other insectivorous animals

Pollination and food production:

  • Pollination is the vital process in flowering plant reproductioninvolving the transfer of pollen grains from the anther (or male part) to the stigma (or female part) of the same, or another plant of the same species.
  • The fertilised egg cells grow into seeds which are then spread in the many fruits and vegetables that we all love to eat.
  • Pollination is not just important for the food we eat directly, it’s vital for the foraging crops, such as field beans and clover, used to feed the livestock we depend on for meat.
  • Just as importantly, it helps to feed many other animals in the foodchain and maintains the genetic diversity of the flowering plants.

 Under grave threat:

  • Large tracts of natural habitats have been cleared for monoculture cultivation
  • While the use of pesticides and fertilisers is pushing out nature’s little helpers.
  • Between 1964 and 2008, there was a 40-60% growth in relative yields of pollinator-dependent crops, while pollinator-independent crops such as cereals and potatoes saw a corresponding 140% rise in yields.

International Initiatives:

  • By 2014-15, the U.S. had established a Pollinator Health Task Forceand a national strategy that focussed on increasing the monarch butterfly population and planting native species and flowers in more than 28,000 sq km to attract pollinators.
  • Around the same time, the U.K. developed 23 key policy actionsunder its National Pollinator Strategy. Meanwhile, after the IPBES report, almost 20 countries have joined the Coalition of the Willing on Pollinators.

 How we can help protect butterflies

We need butterflies, but it could also be argued that since they’ve been around for millions of years, they deserve to be protected. Here are some ways you can help protect butterflies:

  • By providing the right habitat for them. Each species’ caterpillars will only eat a specific plant type. In South Australia this includes grasses, sedges, pea flowering plants, bushes and mistletoe. By planting these, you will encourage butterflies to lay caterpillar eggs in your garden.
  • Try to minimise chemical use in your gardens, as pesticides and chemicals are lethal to all insects, including caterpillars.
  • Butterflies are fussy eaters and like citrus, snapdragons, crepe myrtle, wattles, tea trees, bottlebrushes, lavender, banksia, daisies and verbena. Include a variety of these nectar- producing plants in your garden to ensure that there is butterfly-friendly food available throughout the year.
  • Improvements in the science of pollination, better land management, strong regulations underlying pesticide use, and restoration and protection of habitats for wild pollinators. Above all, there is an urgent need for monitoring wild pollinators, and for strengthening the governance of natural assets.

Conclusion:

  • Pollinators in urban areas can service and enhance food production in peri-urban areas. Wild biodiversity, including pollinators, must become a significant component of future ‘smart cities’.
  • Policies and governance for managing landscapesnatural, agricultural, urban are equally important.
  • There are many factors involved in the complex environmental challengesthreatening human security today. Only well-integrated approaches can successfully address them.
  • Promoting organic farmingand lowering pesticide usage, landscape management is key.