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, involving researchers from Cardiff University, has revealed that gardens and allotments are good for pollinators, and lavender and borage are important garden plants that pollinators use as food sources.
Published in Nature Ecology and Evolution , the study 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 team found that residential gardens and allotments 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.
The main recommendations from the study are:
- Public greenspaces should be managed so they benefit pollinators. Parks, road verges and other public greenspaces make up around a third of cities but have fewer pollinator visits and resources for pollinators than other land uses. The research shows that increasing the numbers of flowers, for example by mowing less often, can help urban pollinators.
- Gardens make up a quarter to a third of the area of UK cities and better garden management in new developments and existing gardens is likely to benefit pollinator conservation.
- City planners and local councils should increase the number of allotments in towns and cities. Allotments are good for pollinators as well as people and increasing their area even by a small amount could have a large positive effect on pollinators.
The research was carried out by scientists at the Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading in collaboration with Cardiff University and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Centre (SESYNC). They worked in collaboration with local councils and Wildlife Trusts 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.