Have you made any changes to your garden to make it more pollinator friendly? If so, you’ve probably made a valuable contribution, according to a new study from Lund University. The researchers evaluated the nationwide Operation: Save the Bees campaign, and their results indicate that what individuals do in their gardens can really make a positive difference.
The fact that pollinating insects are crucial for the functioning of ecosystems and the food supply is well known. However, many pollinating species are endangered or in decline.
In 2018, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation launched a campaign to save bees and other pollinators, aiming to involve the public by creating more supportive environments in private gardens. Actions encouraged were creating a meadow, planting flowers or setting up a bee hotel. About 11,000 Swedes answered the call, and now researchers from Lund University have assessed the measures.
“We wanted to study the measures that the public themselves choose to implement in their garden, and how these can be most effective,” says Anna Persson, a researcher at Lund University and one of the people origin of the study.
Older, species-rich environments are best
The result shows that the greatest positive effect on the number of pollinating insects was if you had a meadow with a higher number of flowering species in your garden. As for flower plantations, they were favorable if they were older and also covered a larger area. Bee hotels, in turn, were more often inhabited if they were located in flower gardens, were older, and had nests no larger than one centimeter in diameter.
Anna Persson thinks the study is useful in giving the right instructions to those who want to make an effort for pollinators themselves.
“For example, it can be shown that it pays to create large, species-rich meadows and flower plantations, and that it is important not to give up after a few years, because the measures improve with time. future campaigns,” she says.
She also hopes the results can inspire more people to adapt their own green space to become more insect-friendly. Gardens often cover around thirty percent of the land area of cities and towns, so garden owners as a group have the potential to contribute to urban biodiversity to a relatively high extent.
It is important to invest in the right measures
“However, the right steps need to be taken. Our results can be used to give advice on what really makes a difference,” says Anna Persson.
The study was carried out through so-called citizen science, where individuals reported what measurements they took in their gardens and how many insects they saw. 3,758 people responded to the researchers’ survey.
A third of Sweden’s bee species are currently red-listed, which means they are endangered.
“The situation of bees and other pollinators shows that measures to help them are important. It is great that the campaign has attracted so much attention and that citizen science can continue to contribute to new knowledge”, says Karin Lexén , general secretary of the Swedish Society for the Conservation of Nature.
Citizen research and uncertainty
Since the researchers collected the data via people’s own estimates, there is a lot of uncertainty in each individual data point, says Anna Persson, but adds that one can still be confident in the results given that so many responses were received.
To test how well the rough estimate of pollinator numbers worked, the researchers also asked participants to count the number of insects visiting flowers for ten minutes on a sunny July day. Just over 350 responses were received and the results were well within the estimated quantities.
“Our study may be affected by what is called ‘expectation bias.’ This means that people who took action and created more species-rich gardens also expect to see more insects, and therefore risk reporting too many,” concludes Anna Persson.
The study is published in the journal Borders in sustainable cities.
Anna S. Persson et al, Citizen science initiatives increase pollinator activity in home gardens and green spaces, Borders in sustainable cities (2023). DOI: 10.3389/frsc.2022.1099100
Provided by Lund University
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