The Impacts of a Rewilding Project on Pollinator Abundance and Diversity at a Local Scale

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Abstract

The recent concerns regarding biodiversity loss have resulted in the emergence of new conservation management strategies, one of which is rewilding. Rewilding aims to restore ecosystem functionality with minimum human input. While rewilding does have potential to benefit both habitats and species, like most traditional conservation methods, it has many limitations. However, rewilding does present a unique opportunity to reshape abandoned landscapes and investigate how this impacts organisms and the interactions they have with their environment. A group of organisms not typically associated with rewilding are pollinators. The current decline in pollinator populations is strongly linked to habitat loss and fragmentation, and rewilding has the potential to improve pollinator abundance and diversity. This study aimed to assess the impacts a rewilding project has on pollinator populations at a local scale. Pan traps
were set up in fields at Knepp Rewilding Estate and all pollinators captured were
identified to species level. Transect walks were also conducted in individual fields to gather more information on pollinator numbers and diversity, and to observe pollinator behaviour. The results of this study suggest that year since agricultural abandonment has no significant effect on pollinators. However, the vegetation structure within fields does impact the pollinator groups recorded in this study. Overall, pollinators preferred areas of greater vegetation height deviation, and this trend was amplified when individual groups were analysed separately. Bumblebees and hoverflies preferred taller vegetation, whereas butterflies and moths were more frequently observed in open habitat. A major factor contributing to the distribution of pollinators was limited forage choice, although other factors not measured could also play a role. The results of this study, though broad, demonstrate the need for rewilding projects to maintain an element of habitat heterogeneity. Further research into this topic is necessary to provide a more extensive insight into how pollinators utilise different resources and how this influences their distribution. However, this study has shown that pollinators can benefit from rewilding, which has implications for both rewilding projects and future pollinator conservation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherKnepp Castle Estate
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2019

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