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Multiple habitats need protecting to save UK bumblebees, finds 10-year citizen science study - British Ecological Society

White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) on Chrysanthemum segetum
White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) on Chrysanthemum segetum. Credit: Pieter Haringsma.

A study using 10 years of citizen science data from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s BeeWalk scheme has found that a variety of targeted conservation approaches are needed to protect UK bumblebee species. The findings are published the British Ecological Society’s Journal of Applied Ecology.

Researchers at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Edinburgh, have used 10 years of bumblebee abundance data, collected by citizen scientists, to provide the most detailed overview currently possible of bumblebee habitat requirements across the UK.

The researchers found a wide range of differences between bumblebee species in the types of habitat they are associated with. This suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to bumblebee conservation will not effectively protect all species and that conservation efforts need to be carefully tailored to particular species.

The study identified types of habitat that could be targeted for bumblebee conservation. Arable areas were found to be important for rare species like the large garden bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus), the largest species in the UK. Whereas large areas of semi-natural land, like moorland, were important for several species such as the moss and the brown-banded carder bees (Bombus muscorum and Bombus humilis), and the bilberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola).

Dr Penelope Whitehorn, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, who led the study, said: “Our results suggest that reversing the loss of semi-natural areas such as wetlands may be the single most generally effective action for bumblebee conservation, while improving habitats in urban and arable areas could benefit particular rare species. As one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world it’s really important that we better protect our native species and habitats in the UK.”

Public urged to help bees, butterflies and other pollinators - Defra

Free app will allow people to count pollinators in their gardens and green spaces.

The public are being encouraged to count bees, butterflies and other pollinators as part of the latest drive to protect and increase these vital species launched today (Monday 23 May).

The free ‘FIT Count’ phone app – supported by Defra – will help track pollinator numbers and movements, providing crucial data that can be used to support pollinators in our natural environment. It could reveal previously unknown colonies of pollinators, where numbers are diminishing, or how populations are shifting in response to climate change.

It is part of a survey being co-ordinated by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. Their Flower-Insect Timed Count (FIT Count) survey asks people to spend 10 minutes a day collecting data on the number of insects that visit particular patches of flowers, including dandelion, buttercup and lavender.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow made the call to action at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, alongside the launch of the government’s new Pollinator Action Plan (PAP), which sets out how government, beekeepers, conservation groups, farmers, researches, industry and the public can work together to help pollinators in England thrive. This will build on the progress of our world-leading Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS) established through the National Pollinator Strategy launched in 2014.

Pollinators are an essential part of our environment and play a crucial role in food production - they contribute the equivalent of more than £500 million a year to UK agriculture and food production, by improving crop quality and quantity – and are also vital to our wider, natural ecosystems.

Today’s announcement is part of the government’s drive to improve nature recovery and reverse declines in species, such as pollinators. The Pollinator Action Plan will support this, and support the delivery of the commitments in the Environment Act 2021, which requires legally-binding targets to be set to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We all want to see an abundance of butterflies and bees in our gardens, parks and countryside. We are encouraging people to give just 10 minutes of their time to count the pollinating insects they see using this app to help us track their numbers and movements, and support our efforts to reverse the decline of these vital species.”

‘Moth Motorways’ could help resist climate change impact - Rothamsted Research

Farmland species struggling to move north

Moths struggling to move north to adapt to climate change in the UK could be assisted by pinpointing areas where habitat restoration can give them a smoother journey.

A new study from Rothamsted with the University of Liverpool, Butterfly Conservation and the University of Reading combined data gathered in part from the Rothamsted Insect Survey with new computer simulations to predict the movement of different moth species in a changing climate.

The research, published in the journal Global Change Biology, revealed that some moth species were only moving northwards across certain British landscapes, putting them at greater risk.

Farmland and suburban moths in particular, which are crucial for both pollination and as food to support birds and bats, struggled to move across landscapes.

Dr Chris Shortall, entomologist at Rothamsted Research and co-author on the study, said the research had helped identify landscape features that seemed to slow the movements of moths.

“The restricted expansion of farmland moths is surprising and shows it is not safe to assume that such relatively tolerant species face no geographical barriers to range expansion. There may be ways to adapt farming practices to improve species ability to move through these landscapes.”

The team found that landscapes with hills or varying temperatures acted as bottlenecks, slowing the movement of farmland and suburban moths.

The reasons for this are unclear, although it may be that hills present a physical barrier to dispersal, or that upland areas contain fewer hedgerows, nectar sources and larval food plants.

Dr Jenny Hodgson, lead author from the University of Liverpool, said: “These new computer models will help us to target habitat restoration in the most effective places to help species adapt to climate change by shifting their ranges across the country.”

There is widespread concern that UK wildlife will fail to track climate change if habitat is too scarce or insufficiently connected. However, up until now there has been a lack of capacity to predict the movement of species across landscapes under climate change.

Professor Tom Oliver, an ecologist at the University of Reading and a co-author of the study, said: “Previous research has shown how severe fragmentation of habitats in our UK landscapes is preventing the ability of species to shift their ranges in response to climate warming. We urgently need targeted habitat restoration to help species adapt to climate change. Utilising predictions like these would enable us to effectively create moth motorways, helping endangered moth species reach new, more suitable regions more quickly in their bid to survive.”

Volunteers needed to report endangered stag beetle sightings - PTES

Stag beetle climbing up a tree
Credit Ben Andrews

Wildlife charity asks volunteers to search in woodlands, as well as in gardens and parks

From late May into July, wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling for people across the UK to record any sightings of endangered stag beetles, as part of the charity’s annual ‘Great Stag Hunt’

Stag beetles typically emerge from the ground in late May and can often be seen into late July flying around on warm summer evenings in search of mates. They are usually spotted in gardens, parks and other green spaces such as hedgerows, traditional orchards and allotments. This year, PTES is particularly interested to receive sightings of stag beetles in woodlands, as well as these other habitats. To take part, simply record any stag beetles (male, female, or larvae) that you see online at www.stagbeetles.ptes.org.

Laura Bower, Conservation Officer at PTES explains: “We know stag beetles live in woodlands in mainland Europe, but we don’t know whether they’re living in UK woodlands. Although these beautiful beetles are doing well in some parts of the country, in other areas they’re extremely rare and even extinct in some places. It’s so important to find out whether our woodlands are home to stag beetles or not, and we want to encourage anyone living near a woodland to keep their eyes peeled when they’re out for a walk, perhaps even just walking the dog, and tell us if they spot one of these iconic insects”.



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