This spring to aid pollinators and local stormwater management, the PWA encouraged watershed communities to participate in a No-Mow May campaign across the Petitcodiac River watershed. This year the PWA was pleased to have announced that local designer Samuel LeGresley was comissioned to do the sign (http://www.samlegresley.com/). A No-Mow May lawn sign was made available for anyone in our watershed community wishing to participat in the movement!

Many conservation groups across the world have been promoting and encouraging communities to adopt a No-Mow or reduced mowing approach to lawns and ditches to help our pollinator populations during May which for them is a critical time of year. No-Mow May campaigns are carried out through education and awareness, to inform society of how our actions can benefit nature. Flowering plants in the spring can bloom and provide an early source of nectar for pollinators, such as bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and beetles. Letting lawns and ditches grow for the month of May has proven to provide immense benefits to pollinator species. The disappearance and decline of many bee, butterfly, beetle, and other insect species is a deep concern of environmental groups such as the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance and many others. Pollinators are key species in our local ecosystems, and without them, our natural infrastructures will be at risk. Extensive research has been published across the world on this subject. Pollinator species studied in Missouri such as butterflies increase in population size when no-mow habits are adopted from late summer to early fall as reducing mowing during peak seasonal butterfly activity can increase populations (Halbritter, et. al., 2015). Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières scientists published research which found that intensively managed lawns have clear negative ecological effects, especially in urban areas (Watson, Christopher J. et. al., 2019). Research has shown that an increase of native grasses and wildflower species in roadside ditches with a reduced mowing regime lessens and controls erosion by stabilizing soils (Entsminger et. al., 2017). Roadside ditches usually need erosion control products if they experience heavy rainfall often. The roots systems of vegetation like shrubs in ditches prevent loss of soil brought about by erosion. There are many benefits of allowing ditch vegetation to grow that does not impact the primary purpose of ditches.

The Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance has also documented the impacts of snow and ice melt runoff in May. Spikes in nutrients such as phosphate and nitrate as well as bacteria colonies of E. coli are commonly monitored at our sampling sites in the watershed. Providing a buffer to the Petitcodiac River system through naturalized lawns and ditches for the month of May will help prevent pollutants and debris from travelling directly into freshwater ecosystems. Plants that are allowed to grow unencumbered will absorb more rainfall and snowmelt that will be fed back to our groundwater reserves that were in need of replenishing last summer during the drought. The plant roots will filter and release the water to infiltrate through the soil. Nutrient pollution can seriously threaten watersheds. One outcome is the over abundant growth of algae beyond levels supported by freshwater ecosystems, the excess dies off and consumes the oxygen necessary for aquatic species to survive. This is also true for cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) growth in our watershed. Cyanobacteria growth is encouraged by higher water temperatures and the abundance of nutrients, both of which frequently accompany stormwater runoff. The more nutrients that are absorbed by the plants in resident’s yards and ditches means less running directly into our river system.

Become an ally to our local pollinator species and natural infrastructure that provide invaluable ecological services to our watershed communities and beyond. We thank you for supporting the No-Mow May campaign and allowing early spring wildflowers to provide resting places and sources of food for our pollinator species. We appreciated seeing fields of bright colourful wildflowers in yards across the Petitcodiac watershed, with busy Monarch butterflies and honeybees enjoying the spring and ouselves knowing that we have helped them to survive.

References:
Halbritter, D. A., Daniels, J. C., Whitaker, D. C., & Huang, L. (2015). Reducing mowing
frequency increases floral resource and butterfly (Lepidoptera: Hesperioidea and
Papilionoidea) abundance in managed roadside margins. Florida Entomologist, 98(4),
1081-1092.
Entsminger, E. D., Jones, J. C., Guyton, J. W., Strickland, B. K., & Leopold, B. D. (2017, June).
Evaluation of Mowing Frequency on Right-of-Way Plant Communities in Mississippi.
Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management, 8(1), 125-139.
Watson, Christopher J., Léonie Carignan‐Guillemette, Caroline Turcotte, Vincent Maire,
Raphaël Proulx. Ecological and economic benefits of low‐intensity urban lawn
management. Journal of Applied Ecology, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13542