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Food for Pollinators: Quantifying the Nectar and Pollen Resources of Urban Flower Meadows

Hicks, D.M. and Ouvrard, P. and Baldock, K.C.R. and Baude, M. and Goddard, M.A. and Kunin, W.E. and Mitschunas, N. and Memmott, J. and Morse, H. and Nikolitsi, M. and Osgathorpe, L.M. and Potts, S.G. and Robertson, K.M. and Scott, A.V. and Sinclair, F. and Westbury, Duncan and Stone, G.N. (2016) Food for Pollinators: Quantifying the Nectar and Pollen Resources of Urban Flower Meadows. PLoS One, 11 (6). ISSN Print 1932-6203 Online 1932-6203

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Abstract

Planted meadows are increasingly used to improve the biodiversity and aesthetic amenity value of urban areas. Although many ‘pollinator-friendly’ seed mixes are available, the floral resources these provide to flower-visiting insects, and how these change through time, are largely unknown. Such data are necessary to compare the resources provided by alternative meadow seed mixes to each other and to other flowering habitats. We used quantitative surveys of over 2 million flowers to estimate the nectar and pollen resources offered by two exemplar commercial seed mixes (one annual, one perennial) and associated weeds grown as 300m2 meadows across four UK cities, sampled at six time points between May and September 2013. Nectar sugar and pollen rewards per flower varied widely across 65 species surveyed, with native British weed species (including dandelion, Taraxacum agg.) contributing the top five nectar producers and two of the top ten pollen producers. Seed mix species yielding the highest rewards per flower included Leontodon hispidus, Centaurea cyanus and C. nigra for nectar, and Papaver rhoeas, Eschscholzia californica and Malva moschata for pollen. Perennial meadows produced up to 20x more nectar and up to 6x more pollen than annual meadows, which in turn produced far more than amenity grassland controls. Perennial meadows produced resources earlier in the year than annual meadows, but both seed mixes delivered very low resource levels early in the year and these were provided almost entirely by native weeds. Pollen volume per flower is well predicted statistically by floral morphology, and nectar sugar mass and pollen volume per unit area are correlated with flower counts, raising the possibility that resource levels can be estimated for species or habitats where they cannot be measured directly. Our approach does not incorporate resource quality information (for example, pollen protein or essential amino acid content), but can easily do so when suitable data exist. Our approach should inform the design of new seed mixes to ensure continuity in floral resource availability throughout the year, and to identify suitable species to fill resource gaps in established mixes.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: pollinators, nectar and pollen resources, urban flower meadows
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Science and the Environment
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2016 08:38
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2016 08:38
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/4582

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