Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Pollination is better in cities than in the countryside

29.01.2020

Flowering plants are better pollinated in urban than in rural areas. This has now been demonstrated experimentally by researchers in central Germany. Although the scientists found a greater diversity of flying insects in the countryside, more bees in cities resulted in more pollinated flowers of test plants. By far the most industrious pollinators were bumble bees, most likely benefitting from the abundant habitats available in the city. To promote pollination, the researchers recommend to take into greater account the needs of bees when landscape planning – both in cities and in the countryside. Their results have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Cities all over the world are expanding. A number of studies have already shown that the conversion of natural areas into built land affects insects and, while the diversity and abundance of insects often decreases, some insect species or species groups may benefit. However, little is known about the effects of urbanisation on the ecosystem services insects provide, such as plant pollination.


When planning gardens, wastelands and parks, the needs of bees as main pollinator should be considered.

Photo: Stefan Bernhardt

A team of scientists led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have now investigated the effect of the urban environment on insect pollinators and pollination.

For this purpose, flower-rich, inner city locations such as parks and botanical gardens were compared with similarly flower-rich sites in rural areas surrounding nine large German cities; Berlin, Braunschweig, Chemnitz, Dresden, Göttingen, Halle, Jena, Leipzig and Potsdam. The scientists sampled flying insects using pan-traps and potted red clover plants as reference for pollination in all locations.

Furthermore, they also recorded all insect visits to red clover flowers 20 times a day for 15 minutes. The seeds produced were also counted, thus determining the rate of pollination success.

The most successfully pollinated plants were in the cities; here the flowers were visited more often than in the rural areas. Although the researchers found a greater biodiversity and biomass of flying insects in the rural areas - especially flies and butterflies - these did little to pollinate the red clover.

This job was done predominantly by bees, which showed higher species richness and flower visitation rates in cities. Indeed, three out of four of the recorded flower-visitors were bumble bees. At a frequency of 8.7 percent, the honey bee was the second most important pollinator.

The researchers believe the great diversity and numbers of bees in cities is due to the availability of suitable habitats available for wild bees and bumblebees. Good nesting opportunities are found in exposed soils, dead wood and wall cavities, and the large variety of flowering plants in parks and gardens ensures a reliable food supply.

Also, bees probably cope better with the challenge of highly dynamic city life than other groups of insects. “Urban people are constantly changing their environment. Finding your way around is a challenge that bees are particularly well-equipped to deal with due to their highly developed orientation and learning skills,” says the head of the study, Prof Robert Paxton, scientist from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv). "Flies and butterflies obviously find this more difficult."

Invariably, almost all the insect species assessed benefit from diverse habitat structures which reliably provide food, nesting sites and orientation. In agricultural land these are flower strips, grassland, forest and hedges, and in inner city locations, gardens, wastelands and parks. These are often missing in an extensively cleared agricultural landscape.

"I was really shocked at how consistently poor the pollination performance in agricultural land was," says Paxton. “Other studies have shown that wild bees and bumble bees are particularly susceptible to pesticides. This could also help explain why their diversity is greater in the city, where pesticides play a lesser role.”

The figures show just how important pollination is, both for ecosystems and humankind. An estimated 90 percent of all flowering plant species rely on pollination by animals; insect pollinators are essential for maintaining plant diversity. But the food we eat also depends on pollination; the value of pollinators’ services to global agriculture in 2015 was calculated at between $235 and $557 billion.

Flowering plants and their pollinators also play an important role in cities. "What would our urban green spaces be without flowers?" says lead author Dr Panagiotis Theodorou, scientist from the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ). "The number of urban vegetable gardens and orchards is also growing, but without pollinators, no fruit will ripen there."

In the medium term, however, cities could also help to maintain rural pollination. “If agricultural land degrades further, cities could serve as a source of pollinators for the farmland surrounding them,” says Theodorou. The researchers therefore recommend that cities should be made more attractive to pollinators, and that the needs of the hardworking bumble bee should be especially taken into account when planning green spaces. But of course, more flower-rich areas and suitable nesting sites also need to be created in the countryside and linked to city habitats so as to boost pollination in commercial orchards.

The study was carried out by first author Panagiotis Theodorou as part of his doctoral thesis at the yDiv graduate school. It was funded by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), FZT 118 (DFG).

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Dr Panagiotis Theodorou
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Phone: +49 (0)345 55 26511
Email: panagiotis.theodorou@zoologie.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.zoologie.uni-halle.de/allgemeine_zoologie/staff/panagiotis_theodorou...

Prof Dr Robert Paxton
Head of General Zoology
Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv),
Phone: +49 (0)345 55 26451
Email: robert.paxton@zoologie.uni-halle.de
Web: https://www.zoologie.uni-halle.de/allgemeine_zoologie/staff/prof._dr._robert_pax...

Originalpublikation:

Theodorou, P., Radzevičiūte, R., Lentendu, G., Kahnt, B., Husemann, M., Bleidorn, C., Settele, J., Schweiger O., Grosse, I., Wubet, T., Murray, T.E., Paxton, R. J. (2020): Urban areas as hotspots for bees and pollination but not a panacea for all insects. Nature Communications DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-14496-6

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.idiv.de/en/news/media_releases/media_release_single_view/469.html Study: bees are more productive in the city than in surrounding regions - Press release on the subject from 22 June 2016

Volker Hahn | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

More articles from Architecture and Construction:

nachricht ArKol Project: Tapping into the Thermal Potential of Façades
25.03.2020 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

nachricht Research made easy: DFKI spin-off “baukobox” helps architects with detailed planning
03.03.2020 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Architecture and Construction >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Blocking the Iron Transport Could Stop Tuberculosis

The bacteria that cause tuberculosis need iron to survive. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now solved the first detailed structure of the transport protein responsible for the iron supply. When the iron transport into the bacteria is inhibited, the pathogen can no longer grow. This opens novel ways to develop targeted tuberculosis drugs.

One of the most devastating pathogens that lives inside human cells is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. According to the...

Im Focus: Physicist from Hannover Develops New Photon Source for Tap-proof Communication

An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.

A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...

Im Focus: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

Im Focus: Stem Cells and Nerves Interact in Tissue Regeneration and Cancer Progression

Researchers at the University of Zurich show that different stem cell populations are innervated in distinct ways. Innervation may therefore be crucial for proper tissue regeneration. They also demonstrate that cancer stem cells likewise establish contacts with nerves. Targeting tumour innervation could thus lead to new cancer therapies.

Stem cells can generate a variety of specific tissues and are increasingly used for clinical applications such as the replacement of bone or cartilage....

Im Focus: Artificial solid fog material creates pleasant laser light

An international research team led by Kiel University develops an extremely porous material made of "white graphene" for new laser light applications

With a porosity of 99.99 %, it consists practically only of air, making it one of the lightest materials in the world: Aerobornitride is the name of the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

MOC2020: Fraunhofer IOF organises international micro-optics conference in Jena

03.03.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

Hubble finds best evidence for elusive mid-size black hole

01.04.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

Flooding stunted 2019 cropland growing season, resulting in more atmospheric CO2

01.04.2020 | Earth Sciences

To tune up your quantum computer, better call an AI mechanic

01.04.2020 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>