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Where is the UK’s pollinator biodiversity? The importance of urban areas for flower-visiting insects

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Mark Goddard



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Insect pollinators provide a crucial ecosystem service, but are under threat. Urban areas could be important for pollinators, though their value relative to other habitats is poorly known. We compared pollinator communities using quantified flower-visitation networks in 36 sites (each 1km2) in three landscapes: urban, farmland and nature reserves. Overall, flower visitor abundance and species richness did not differ significantly between the three landscape types. Bee abundance did not differ between landscapes, but bee species richness was higher in urban areas than farmland. Hoverfly abundance was higher in farmland and nature reserves than urban sites, but species richness did not differ significantly. While urban pollinator assemblages were more homogenous across space than those in farmland or nature reserves, there was no significant difference in the numbers of rarer species between the three landscapes. Network-level specialisation was higher in farmland than urban sites. Relative to other habitats, urban visitors foraged from a greater number of plant species (higher generality) but also visited a lower proportion of available plant species (higher specialisation) – both possibly driven by higher urban plant richness. Urban areas are growing and improving their value for pollinators should be part of any national strategy to conserve and restore pollinators.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Baldock KCR, Goddard MA, Hicks DM, Kunin WE, Mitschunas N, Osgathorpe LM, Pott SG, Robertson KM, Scott AV, Stone GN, Vaughan IP, Memmott J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences

Year: 2015

Volume: 282

Issue: 1804

Print publication date: 01/04/2015

Online publication date: 11/02/2015

Acceptance date: 07/01/2015

Date deposited: 09/06/2015

ISSN (print): 0962-8452

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2954

Publisher: Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2849


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Funder referenceFunder name
Scottish Government
BB/I00047X/1Wellcome Trust, under the Insect Pollinators Initiative