Can urban parks help take the sting out of bee population decline?

ecology, open space planning, parks, urbanism, public space, ecosystems, urban sprawl, habitat


Alesa Rubendall


Marguerite Anglin


Brittany Coyle

Bees, one of the many pollinators, are a keystone indicator species serving to gauge the relative health of environments. However, in recent years bee population declines have been recorded around the world. One potential cause is ecosystem degradation, which limits bio-habitat and food chain supply for these busy creatures. As resource scarcity jeopardizes colonies, the work and benefits bees provide for our society, such as pollination of food supply and flowering flora, will also be jeopardized. Effective planning and design of parks can safe guard bee populations from further decline and help foster healthy places and bio-diversity in general.

Urbanization presents challenges to bee pollinations. As reported by the USDA in 2000, 2.2 million acres of U.S. farmland and open space are converted to urban areas every year. This once continuous habitat has been drastically transformed, leaving only fragmented areas in its wake. As such, urban parks become increasingly important, serving as recreational sites, open space, and refuges for native ecosystems. If designed well, these islands of refuge can provide effective habitat and food supply for bees, especially if planned in concert with adjacent parks as a network of open space. Paying particular attention to the suitable habitat, diverse native fauna, park size, ratio of perimeter to area (low ratios are desirable), and proximity to other open spaces (bees routinely forage 200-300m from their nests but can travel up to 2 km) are crucial design considerations to create a buzzworthy, sustainable community!