Making cities more pollinator-friendly

As we face an increasingly urban future, we need to protect and cultivate greater biodiversity in our cities for the sake of people and pollinators alike.

The challenge 

Pollinators provide an invaluable ecological service – the total value of crops fertilised by insects is estimated at £510m per year in the UK. But increased urbanisation, intensive farming, pesticides and disease have all had an impact on the pollinator population. So much so that 97 per cent of the UK’s wild flower meadows, a rich source of forage for many native insects, have been lost since the 1930s. 

While it’s long been known that pollinator decline has a knock-on effect on everything from urban food production to a city’s aesthetic appeal, until recently, there was a lack of quantifiable evidence to prompt city dwellers, policymakers and developers to take measurable action. 

What we’re doing 

Working with conservation experts, universities and local councils across the UK, our researchers spent three years collating data about plant-pollinator communities in urban areas including parks, allotments, meadows, churchyards, playgrounds, cemeteries and roadside verges.  

In the first city-wide study of its kind, the Bristol Urban Pollinators Project, part of the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative, simultaneously created and monitored new schemes to attract native insects such as bees, wasps, butterflies and hoverflies. 

How it helps 

The collective participation of conservationists, local councils, and amateur gardeners and growers in simple steps like cultivating more wild meadow flowers proved the social and ecological benefits of bolstering urban biodiversity. 

These findings are now helping to inform practical conservation strategies, including Greater Bristol's first ever Pollinator Strategy alongside a series of recommendations for policymakers, practitioners and building developers. These include sowing more wildflower meadows to bring back native insects, creating biodiversity action plans as part of any new planning initiatives, tracking the success of these action plans, and encouraging rail and road companies to cultivate the pollinator potential of roadside verges.  

The research has also been featured in the European Commission's Science for Environment Policy service, which aims to preserve and improve Europe's environment for present and future generations. 

Lead researcher profile

Dr Katherine Baldock, NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellow

Partner organisations

  • Avon Wildlife Trust
  • Bristol City Council
  • Bristol Friends of the Earth
  • Buglife, South Gloucestershire Council
  • University of Reading
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Trust
  • National Museum Wales
  • Leeds City Council
  • City of Edinburgh Council
  • Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • Emorsgate Seeds
  • Bristol Zoological Society
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