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Grow 150,000 hectares of highways for the British insect "commuter"

This story was identified byPatricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International, guest editor of Call to Earth's "Nature's Highways" theme.

(CNN)Imagine traveling long distances in a barren wilderness without access to food or water. This is a difficult reality faced by many flying insects in the United Kingdom.

The population of insects in this country has declined significantly. The number of flying insects in the UK has decreased by about 60% over the last 17 yearsabout20 according to the results of a recent study by the Nature Maintenance Group Buglife and the Kent Wildlife Trust. According to the Butterfly Conservation, a bee and bee charity, this species has beenextinct in the last 100 years, andhalf of the British butterfly species areendangered.
Worldwide, up to 10% of allinsect speciesare endangered. Devastation is associated with multiple factors, such as climate change and the use of pesticides, but when vast areas of major habitat are lost due to intensive agriculture and other developments, BugLife's program manager. Jamie Robins says.
Since the 1930s,UK has lost 97% of its wildflower pasturesthis is not only pollinating insects, but alsobirds, hedgehogs, bats and other insects. It also affects the animals it feeds on

"Our countryside is green, beautiful and vibrant, but when there aren't many flowers, it's easy for insects to move. It's a very hostile environment, "says Kate Jones, Head of Protection for Buglife. ..

"Stepping stones"

Buglife identifies that it wants to restore 150,000 hectares (580 square miles) of land to wildflowers across the UK Did. Pasture. It is hoped that these meadows can be connected to form a national insect "commuter" network called the B-line, which provides nectar-rich pit stops for pollen maters.

The "stepping stones" of these flowers "must be within 300 meters, based on the average commuting distance of lonely bees, to be able to move between sites." Robins explains.

The B-lines project, partially funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, began in 2011. Using software developed by the University of Washington, Buglife planned the best connections between existing wildflowers at sites across the UK to create the first national B-line map launched in March 2021. Did.

So far, Line B has restored over 2,500 hectares of wildflower-rich meadows in the network. However, it is only a small percentage of the target of 150,000 hectares and wildflower restoration can be difficult. Claire Carbell, senior ecologist at the British Institute of Hydrology, said that native wildflowers tend to struggle to settle in areas of rich and fertile farmlands, and pollen maters are diverse regardless of season. He says he often needs flowers.

Another important challenge is for networks to pass through both public and private land in both urban and rural areas. That's why this project works with wildlife trusts, local governments, farmers and real estate owners.

Buglife provides farmers and landowners with guidance on growing wildflower-rich grasslands, along with a 10-year maintenance plan. "They are the ones who can really make a difference. They can give up a small area of ​​their land to wildflowers and restore their habitat," says Robins.

Separately, the UK Department of Environmental Food and Rural Affairs owns land by funding wildflower planting and management through a recentenvironmental land management scheme
. Encourages people and farmers to restore their habitat.

Carvell believes that the B-lines initiative is an important addition to government-led incentives, providing effective support and training to farmers and councils for the restoration process.

She adds that planting wildflower-rich hedges and grasslands is useful not only for insects but also for farmers. "We benefit from farmers managing their land in a positive way against bees, flies, and insects that provide near-natural pest control services for all predatory insects and crops. I have a lot of evidence, "she says.

According to a studypublished by the Royal Society of the United Kingdom,found that creating wildflower habitats on former cultivated lands did not adversely affect five-year yields, and in addition. Suggests that it may increase yields. Protecting pollen maters in wildflower-rich pastures is essential for food security, as nearly 75% of the world's crops depend on pollination, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The general public can also participate by adding their wildflower habitat to the B-line map via theBuglife website. And insects will be able to enjoy it, Jones says.

"We all have a role to play," she adds. "It's great to be able to contribute to something."