Councils should create more allotments to protect bees, says study

Councils can play a bigger role in conserving bees by increasing the number of allotments in towns and cities, 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), revealed that gardens and allotments are good for pollinators, and lavender and borage are important garden plants that pollinators use as food sources.

The researchers have called on city planners and councils to increase the number of allotments and community gardens in towns and cities, as well as thinking more about garden management in new developments, which could both have a ‘large positive effect’ on pollinators.

As part of their study, the team designed a new measure of ‘community robustness’ that considers the stability of whole communities of pollinators, rather than 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, according to the study.

Dr Katherine Baldock, NERC Knowledge exchange fellow and lead researcher 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.’

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.’

The paper was published in the Nature journal, which you can read here.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

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