Crofting and bumblebee conservation: The impact of land management practices on bumblebee populations in northwest Scotland

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2010
Authors:N. Redpath, Osgathorpe, L. M., Park, K., Goulson, D.
Journal:Biological Conservation

The northwest of Scotland is a stronghold for two of the UK’s rarest bumblebee species, Bombus distinguendus and Bombus muscorum.

The predominant form of agricultural land management in this region is crofting, a system specific to Scotland in which small agricultural units (crofts) operate rotational crop- ping and grazing regimes. Crofting is considered to be beneficial to a wide range of flora and fauna. How- ever, currently there is a lack of quantitative evidence to support this view with regard to bumblebee populations. In this study we assessed the effect of land management on the abundance of foraging bum blebees and the availability of bumblebee forage plants across crofts in northwest Scotland. The results of our study show that current crofting practices do not support high densities of foraging bumblebees. Tra ditional crofting practice was to move livestock to uplands in the summer, but this has been largely aban doned. Summer sheep grazing of lowland pasture had a strong negative impact on bumblebee abundance and forage plant availability throughout the survey period. The use of specific ‘bird and bee’ conservation seed mixes appears to improve forage availability within the crofted landscape, although the number of bees observed remained low. Of the forage plants available, the three most frequently visited species were from the Fabaceae. We therefore conclude that the creation of agri-environment schemes which promote the use of Fabaceae-rich seed mixes and encourage the removal of sheep grazing on lowland areas throughout the summer are essential in order to conserve bumblebee populations within crofted areas.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith