The spread of farms and other development in Europe is threatening insects that pollinate plants. These bugs play a crucial role in ecosystems and aid crop production, providing billions of euros’ worth of agricultural services. To keep these insects from dwindling further, people may need to create new patches of pollinator-friendly habitat.
The study authors wanted to find out if restored landfills would fit the bill. England and Wales have about 28,000 hectares of working landfills, and about 100 sites close per year. When a landfill closes, clay and soil are usually laid over the surface. Some sites are also covered with grass seed and fertilizer.
The team compared nine restored landfills to well-preserved grasslands in the United Kingdom. They found 63 flowering plant species at the landfills and 74 species at the preserved grasslands. The two types of sites also hosted similar numbers of pollinating insect species, including bumblebees and hoverflies.
Restored landfills therefore “have the potential to play a role in reversing declining populations of flower-visiting insects,” the researchers write. These former dumps could even channel pollinators to farms through connecting hedgerows. — Roberta Kwok | 15 January 2013