Changing bee and hoverfly pollinator assemblages along an urban-rural gradient

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


Background: The potential for reduced pollination ecosystem service due to global declines of bees and other pollinators is cause for considerable concern. Habitat degradation, destruction and fragmentation due to agricultural intensification have historically been the main causes of this pollinator decline. However, despite increasing and accelerating levels of global urbanization, very little research has investigated the effects of urbanization on pollinator assemblages. We assessed changes in the diversity, abundance and species composition of bee and hoverfly pollinator assemblages in urban, suburban, and rural sites across a UK city.Methodology/Principal Findings: Bees and hoverflies were trapped and netted at 24 sites of similar habitat character (churchyards and cemeteries) that varied in position along a gradient of urbanization. Local habitat quality (altitude, shelter from wind, diversity and abundance of flowers), and the broader-scale degree of urbanization (e. g. percentage of built landscape and gardens within 100 m, 250 m, 500 m, 1 km, and 2.5 km of the site) were assessed for each study site. The diversity and abundance of pollinators were both significantly negatively associated with higher levels of urbanization. Assemblage composition changed along the urbanization gradient with some species positively associated with urban and suburban land-use, but more species negatively so. Pollinator assemblages were positively affected by good site habitat quality, in particular the availability of flowering plants.Conclusions/Significance: Our results show that urban areas can support diverse pollinator assemblages, but that this capacity is strongly affected by local habitat quality. Nonetheless, in both urban and suburban areas of the city the assemblages had fewer individuals and lower diversity than similar rural habitats. The unique development histories of different urban areas, and the difficulty of assessing mobile pollinator assemblages in just part of their range, mean that complementary studies in different cities and urban habitats are required to discover if these findings are more widely applicable.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere23459
Number of pages11
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011