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Woodland and hedgerow creation will be crucial to support pollinators in Wales - UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). Photo: Lucy Hulmes
Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius). Photo: Lucy Hulmes

The largest survey of pollinator abundance in Wales has found that woodland and hedgerow creation can play a crucial role in action to reverse declines in insects that are essential for crop yield and other wildlife.

Until now, there have been surprisingly limited scientific data about pollinators in Wales when compared to the rest of the UK. However, a major new study of hundreds of different sites has revealed the types of habitats where pollinating bees, hoverflies and butterflies are most abundant.

The large-scale survey was carried out by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and Butterfly Conservation Wales, in conjunction with the Welsh Government and more than 1,000 landowners across the country. The findings show that carefully managed woodland and hedgerow creation could play a key role in land management incentive schemes, alongside other actions such as restoring wildflower meadows and organic farming with mass-flowering crops.

The researchers – who surveyed 300 squares of land across Wales measuring 1km x 1km – found up to twice as many insects in broadleaved woodland areas as in intensively farmed grassland. They also estimated that without hedgerows, pollinator abundance on farmland could fall by up to 21 per cent.

This is because hedgerows and broadleaved woodland, which includes trees such as oak and maple as well as flowering shrubs, provide diverse habitats for pollinators. Many woody plant species provide food for larvae, as well as pollen and nectar for adult insects. Hedgerows and woodland also provide undisturbed nesting sites and shelter for many species.

Read the paper: Alison, J., Botham, M., Maskell, L. C., Garbutt, A., Seaton, F. M., Skates, J., Smart, S. M., Thomas, A. R. C., Tordoff, G., Williams, B. L., Wood, C. M., & Emmett, B. A. (2021). Woodland, cropland and hedgerows promote pollinator abundance in intensive grassland landscapes, with saturating benefits of flower cover. Journal of Applied Ecology, 00, 1– 13. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.14058

Posted on: 17 November 2021

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