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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Citizen science data reveals the need for keeping garden plant recommendations up-to-date to help pollinators

Anderson, Helen B.; Robinson, Annie; Siddharthan, Advaith; Sharma, Nirwan; Bostock, Helen; Salisbury, Andrew; Roberts, Stuart; van der Wal, Rene


Widespread concern over declines in pollinating insects has led to numerous recommendations of which "pollinator-friendly" plants to grow and help turn urban environments into valuable habitat for such important wildlife. Whilst communicated widely by organisations and readily taken up by gardeners, the provenance, accuracy, specificity and timeliness of such recommendations remain unclear. Here we use data (6429 records) gathered through a UK-wide citizen science programme (BeeWatch) to determine food plant use by the nations' bumblebee species, and show that much of the plant use recorded does not reflect practitioner recommendations: correlation between the practitioners' bumblebee-friendly plant list (376 plants compiled from 14 different sources) and BeeWatch records (334 plants) was low (r=0.57), and only marginally higher than the correlation between BeeWatch records and the practitioners' pollinator-friendly plant list (465 plants from 9 different sources; r=0.52). We found pollinator-friendly plant lists to lack independence (correlation between practitioners' bumblebee-friendly and pollinator-friendly lists: r=0.75), appropriateness and precision, thus failing to recognise the non-binary nature of food-plant preference (bumblebees used many plants, but only in small quantities, e.g. lavender-the most popular plant in the BeeWatch database-constituted, at most, only 11% of records for any one bumblebee species) and stark differences therein among species and pollinator groups. We call for the provision and use of up-to-date dynamic planting recommendations driven by live (citizen science) data, with the possibility to specify pollinator species or group, to powerfully support transformative personal learning journeys and pollinator-friendly management of garden spaces.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2020, volume: 10, number: 1, article number: 20483

Authors' information

Anderson, Helen B.
University of Aberdeen
Robinson, Annie
University of Aberdeen
Siddharthan, Advaith
Open University - UK
Sharma, Nirwan
Open University - UK
Bostock, Helen
Royal Horticultural Society
Salisbury, Andrew
Royal Horticultural Society
Roberts, Stuart
University of Reading
van der Wal, René (Van Der Wal, René)
University of Aberdeen
van der Wal, René (Van Der Wal, René)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG11 Sustainable cities and communities

UKÄ Subject classification


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