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Wildflowers, Pollinators, and Sustainability

Wildflowers, Pollinators, and Sustainability

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, February 4, 2016/Categories: natural history, wildlife conservation, sustainability, environment

               Pollinator studies of bees and wildflowers (credit: University of Leeds)

New research by ecologists at the University of Leeds illustrates the mutual roll of wildflowers and bees. In the first UK-wide study of its kind, the value of wildflowers as food sources shows that decreasing resources mirror the decline of pollinating insects like bees. Publishing their findings in Nature and drawing upon 80 years of data as well as current measurements, the research provides the most comprehensive assessment of food sources and pollinator populations ever published.

In the Leeds announcement, lead ecologist Bill Kunin commented:

"Wild bees are vital to the success of many important food crops and wild plants. It is really important that we understand the relationships between floral food resources and pollinating insect populations. Our research shows significant long-term declines in the diversity of nectar sources mirrored in a fall in the diversity of pollinator species. We are at a point where only four plant species account for more than half the nectar in Britain.”

Cultivated agricultural fields were poor sources of food-plant diversity for pollinators and efforts made by farmers to maintain hedge-rows or plant patches of "wildflowers to help improve the land for pollinators were small and their contribution to floral resources is low".

Such large-scale assessments demonstrate the direct links between food sources and pollinators and offer many opportunities for ecology being applied to sustainabilty problems in the real world.



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