Pollinating the Fowey Valley

Pollinators, including bumblebees, are declining worldwide in response to interacting factors relating to agricultural intensification such as habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and pesticides, but are essential for sustainable farming.

Farmers are however under considerable economic pressure to increase productivity, which can reduce the availability of suitable habitats for wild pollinators. Honeybees are estimated to be capable of providing only around 34% of pollination service demands, demonstrating the importance of wild pollinators such as bumblebees to make up this shortfall.

When land is managed sensitively, agricultural habitats can provide floral resources, nesting habitats, and connectivity, reversing pollinator decline whilst still producing food.

The project

In this new cutting-edge, science led & evidence based project, we are trialling the University of Exeter’s Bee-Steward model at a landscape scale across the Fowey Valley, Cornwall. Bee-Steward simulates the growth, survival and behaviour of bumblebees in a mapped landscape, and helps untangle complex bumblebee responses to their environment.

The model predicts the best places to target land management changes to increase bumblebee populations. We will be collecting bumblebee and habitat data to refine the model and will test its capabilities, with the future aim of promoting its use amongst farmers, landowners and conservation bodies to help inform management decisions at a landscape scale.

During 2019, the Trust is working with its partners to gather baseline bumblebee and habitat data, so that we can start trialling the model over a three year period from January 2020.

The project aims

1. Test the Bee-Steward model in agricultural land in Cornwall, and work with partners to create habitat for bumblebees based on the model’s predictions.
2. Gather the data necessary to refine the model, and quantify its benefits to bumblebee survival and explore differences in farm productivity.
3. Provide evidence to farmers of how they can use limited resources to support pollinators through selective land management decisions without adversely affecting productivity, improving sustainable farming practices.

Project impact

We will use Bee-Steward to predict the impact of bumblebee-focused habitat management work within the Fowey Valley. By comparing different scenarios, we can decide which management regimes are likely to have the most beneficial impact on bumblebee populations.

We will then provide ongoing and bespoke support for this habitat work, to ensure the best result for pollinators. We will gather data to evaluate the success of the habitat improvement works, the accuracy of the model’s predictions, and explore the effect of these changes on the agricultural productivity of the farms involved.

We expect that the abundance of bumblebees in response to habitat changes will be accurately predicted by the Bee-Steward model.

If the model and approach is successful, we will then be able to roll out a tool to farmers, land managers and conservationists for a landscape-scale, targeted approach to pollinator recovery. This will contribute to sustainable agricultural practices.

Partners and collaborators

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are working in partnership with the Duchy of Cornwall Estate, Duchy of Cornwall Nursery, The Lanhydrock Estate Company, the National Trust, Trewithen Dairy, and the University of Exeter.

Funding

Pollinating the Fowey Valley has received funding from the Prince of Wales Charitable Foundation.

Get involved

Please check our Volunteering Opportunities page for details of how to get involved with this project.

For more information, contact cathy.horsley@bumblebeeconservation.org

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