Newswise – Satellites and drones can provide key information to protect pollinators, researchers say.
Their study examines new ways to use these technologies to track flower availability, and indicates that this could be combined with behavioral studies to see the world through the eyes of insects.
The flowers available to insects vary from day to day and place to place, and human activity changes landscapes in ways that affect all pollinators.
The University of Exeter research team, supported by the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), hope their approach can help us understand these changes, leading to better conservation.
“Recent advances in drone and satellite technology have created new opportunities,” said lead author Dunia Gonzales, from the Center for Animal Behavior Research at the University of Exeter.
“Drones can now give us fine detail about a landscape – at the scale of individual flowers – and by combining this with satellite imagery, we can learn more about the food available to pollinators over a large area.
“Along with behavioral studies of insects, this will help us understand the threats they face and design conservation programs.
“With some species of pollinators in decline, including many wild bees, we urgently need this understanding to protect not only pollinators in general, but also the great diversity of species that each play a vital role in ecosystems. complex.”
Pollinators provide a range of benefits (called ecosystem services), particularly to humans by pollinating food crops.
However, much of their behavior and habitats – and the impact of human-caused climate and habitat change – remains unknown.
“Until now, most research using satellites has focused on large-scale agricultural landscapes such as rapeseed, corn and almond farms,” Gonzales said.
“We emphasize the need to study landscapes with complex communities of plants and pollinators.
“These vary from place to place – and using satellites and drones together is a good way to learn about these local differences.
“For example, the South Devon AONB contains many smaller fields, microhabitats and traditional Devon hedgerows – so effective conservation here might be different from measures that would work elsewhere.”
Gonzales’ work is funded by the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
The article, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolutionis entitled: “Remote sensing of floral resources for pollinators – new horizons from satellites to drones.”
The article is part of a special issue entitled “What sensory ecology could learn from landscape ecology” edited by Brazilian researchers.