Mapping the way forward for Scotland’s pollinators

Our blog today looks at one of the many projects NatureScot is working on to improve the future for our vital pollinating insects. Cameron, one of this year’s NatureScot graduate placements who is mapping Scotland’s pollinator-friendly habitats, tells us more .

A honeybee collecting nectar from a polyanthus in a herbaceous border. ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot

It’s no secret that pollinators have been experiencing significant hardships, with habitat loss and fragmentation among the most substantial drivers of decline. The contributions made by pollinators to the health of our countryside, agriculture and personal wellbeing are similarly well known. To keep and increase these benefits, especially in the light of climate change, will require a coordinated and dedicated effort at all levels of society.

Thankfully, these past few years have highlighted the enormous depth of compassion for Scotland’s pollinators. Citizen science programmes have been successfully enlisting the public to record pollinator sightings, and community-led initiatives to increase wildflower coverage in local communities have been remarkably successful. Simple actions, such as planting nectar-rich plants in a window box or garden, can have a disproportionately large positive impact on pollinator populations.

That’s because our pollinators live in an archipelago, moving between small fragments of viable habitat searching for food. The further apart these fragments are, the tougher it becomes to make that journey, and eventually it may become impossible. This has the potential to leave certain clusters of pollinators stranded in an area unable to support a stable population due to lack of food and/or nesting space.

If we know where the gaps are, then we are better equipped to start filling them in. My graduate placement is looking to create a map of all the pollinator-friendly habitat in Scotland, with the aim to help decrease habitat fragmentation. The hope is that individuals, businesses, local authorities, and more will be able to use this map (dubbed ‘PollMap’) to prioritise areas most in need of improvement. The overall aim of this effort is to facilitate the joining-up of habitat patches, providing an additional tool to support projects such as the Buglife B-Lines.

Flying hoverfly and a peacock butterfly feeding on a knapweed flower head. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

PollMap will be based on the Habitat Map of Scotland and satellite data, and will attempt to score every type of habitat across the country according to its theoretical ecological benefit to pollinators, as well as the capacity to provide pollination as an ecosystem service in the context of natural capital. The final output will be an interactive map available for anyone to view and, hopefully, consider consulting when planning habitat improvement for pollinators.

Find out more about our work to help Scotland’s pollinators.

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