Golf Course Management

APR 2013

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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research Operation Pollinator for Golf Courses Naturalized areas on golf courses can boost declining populations of native pollinators by providing habitat in out-of-play areas. Increasing the acreage of natural habitats in out-of-play areas on golf courses can create opportunities to increase course sustainability while enhancing the golf experience (1,3,8). The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, USGA's Wildlife Links program (7), and the Golf and the Environment Initiative highlight how golf courses can provide habitat for desirable urban wildlife. Naturalized areas can also reduce the need for irrigation, mowing and chemical inputs, thus creating a more sustainable area (1,3). Golf course naturalized areas may provide refuge and food resources for native bees and other pollinators threatened by habitat fragmentation. Conserving bumblebees and other native pollinators is vital because colony collapse disorder has decimated honey bee populations (2,4). In North America there are more than 4,000 different native, mostly solitary, bee species that could provide pollination services if given the foral resources they need to thrive, but populations of native bees are declining because of habitat loss (2). Native bees are commonly used to pollinate high-value crops such as blueberries, cranberries, squash and clover, where the economic value of these native bees is estimated at $3 billion annually (4). Golf course naturalized areas or dedicated wildfower plantings can also serve as sanctuaries and stepping stones for native butterfies threatened by fragmentation and loss of their native habitat. Monarch butterfies, for example, migrate from Canada and the northern United States where larval food plants (milkweed) can be found, to Mexico where the adults are able to hibernate during the warmer winter. Monarchs are threatened both because their overwintering sites are being destroyed and because the milkweed patches that serve as adult sanctuaries on the long trip to Mexico and as larval habitats are being fragmented and reduced in the United State (5). The potential for golf courses to serve as sanctuaries for native bees and other pollinators is currently of great interest given the population declines of many native pollinators due to habitat loss (4). Nectar-producing perennials or biennials (such as milkweed) associated with infrequently disturbed semi-natural vegetation are an important resource for native pollinators, a role that naturalized roughs could easily fll (2). To this purpose, Operation Pollinator for Golf Courses was established in the United Kingdom in 2010. The initiative is sponsored by Syngenta and is attempting to reverse the decline of valuable native pollinators by planting native wildfower banks to create nectar- and pollen-rich habitats in out-of-play areas. Such plantings can also enhance visual appeal and interest and members' pride in their club's environmental stance. Operation Pollinator has already been implemented on several European golf courses, but has not yet been brought to the United States (6). Goals of Operation Pollinator Emily Dobbs Daniel Potter, Ph.D. 100 GCM April 2013 Native bees such as the native bumblebee shown here are commonly used to pollinate high-value crops such as blueberries, cranberries, squash and clover. Photos by Emily Dobbs In initiating the frst Operation Pollinator for Golf Courses project in North America, our goals are to evaluate native wildfower seed mixes for cost, ease of establishment, bloom sequence, coverage and attractiveness to bees, butterfies and other native pollinators; and to develop recommendations for wildfower seed mixes and guidelines for

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