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

Katherine C.R. Baldock, Mark A. Goddard, Damien M. Hicks, William E. Kunin, Nadine Mitschunas, Lynne M. Osgathorpe, Simon G. Potts, Kirsty M. Robertson, Anna V. Scott, Graham N. Stone, Ian P. Vaughan, Jane Memmott

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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 1 km) 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 homogeneous 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 specialization 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 specialization), 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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20142849
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1803
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


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