Road Verges for Bumblebee Conservation: a Green Infrastructure Opportunity or an Ecological Trap?

My PhD is investigating how road verges impact bumblebees. Habitat loss and fragmentation is a major driver in the decline of bumblebee populations, and road verges are often proposed as a key habitat for bumblebees and other pollinators. There are approximately 500,000 kilometres of rural road verge in the UK and they can provide bumblebees with food, nesting sites, and also improve the connectivity of the landscape. There are, however, many consequences of living in such close proximity to traffic e.g. collisions with vehicles, excess noise and vibration, and exposure to a multitude of pollutants. How road verges and their associated benefits/drawbacks impacts bumblebees remains unclear, and my research is hoping to answer some of these questions.

The four primary research questions I hope to address are: (1) Does the distance from the edge of a busy road impact the overall development of a colony?, (2) What levels of vibration are bees nesting on verges likely to experience and how does this impact them?, (3) What metal pollutants are found in the forage rewards of flowers along verges and how do bees respond to these?, and (4) What is the capacity of road verges for bumblebee conservation in the UK?

My PhD is based at the University of East Anglia and is supervised by Dr. Lynn Dicks. The project is working in collaboration with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Highways England, and is funded by NERC EnvEast DTP.

If you have any queries about my research please feel free to contact me by email: Claire.Wallace@uea.ac.uk

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