Cities could play a key role in pollinator conservation

January 14, 2019

Given the pressures that pollinators face in agricultural land, cities could play an important role in conserving pollinators, according to a new study. The research, carried out by scientists at the Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading in collaboration with Cardiff University and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), has revealed that gardens and allotments are good for pollinators, and lavender and borage are important garden plants that pollinators use as food sources.

The study, published today [Monday 14 January] in Nature Ecology and Evolution, has assessed all major urban land uses for pollinators. While there have been a few small-scale studies on pollinators in some urban land uses, this is the first-time scientists have considered cities in their entirety.

The research found that residential gardens and allotments (community gardens) are particularly good for pollinators, and lavender, borage, dandelions, thistles, brambles and buttercups are important plant species for pollinators in urban areas.

The team also designed a new measure of management success, based on community robustness, that considers the stability of whole communities of pollinators, and not just individual species. Robustness is a measure of how a community responds to species loss; robust communities can survive the disappearance of some species but species loss in fragile communities leads to a domino effect of other extinctions.

Dr Katherine Baldock, NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow and lead researcher from the School of Biological Sciences and the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol, said: "By understanding the impact of each urban land use on pollinators, whether it's gardens, allotments, road verges or parks, we can make cities better places for pollinators."

The main recommendations from the study are:Jane Memmott, Professor of Ecology at the University of Bristol and who leads the Urban Pollinators Project, added: "This is the first time a new measure of management success that considers the long-term sustainability of pollinator communities, and not just individual species, has been used in a practical conservation context.

"Rather than simply asking about how management affects the number of pollinator species or their abundance, we also ask how potential strategies affect the ability of pollinators to cope with species losses associated with environmental change. A good management intervention leads to more sustainable communities."
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The researchers worked in collaboration with local councils and Wildlife Trusts during the research including: Bristol City Council; City of Edinburgh Council; Leeds City Council; Reading Borough Council; Avon Wildlife Trust; Yorkshire Wildlife Trust; Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust and the National Museum of Wales.

University of Bristol

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