A spatial framework for targeting urban planning for pollinators and people with local stakeholders: A route to healthy, blossoming communities?

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Abstract

Pollinators such as bees and hoverflies are essential components of an urban ecosystem, supporting and contributing to the biodiversity, functioning, resilience and visual amenity of green infrastructure. Their urban habitats also deliver health and well-being benefits to society, by providing important opportunities for accessing nature nearby to the homes of a growing majority of people living in towns and cities. However, many pollinator species are in decline, and the loss, degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats are some of the key drivers of this change. Urban planners and other practitioners need evidence to carefully prioritise where they focus their resources to provide and maintain a high quality, multifunctional green infrastructure network that supports pollinators and people. We provide a modelling framework to inform green infrastructure planning as a nature based solution with social and ecological benefits. We show how habitat suitability models (HSM) incorporating remote sensed vegetation data can provide important information on the influence of urban landcover composition and spatial configuration on species distributions across cities. Using Edinburgh, Scotland, as a case study city, we demonstrate this approach for bumble bees and hoverflies, providing high resolution predictive maps that identify pollinator habitat hotspots and pinch points across the city. By combining this spatial HSM output with health deprivation data, we highlight ‘win-win’ opportunity areas in most need of improved green infrastructure to support pollinator habitat quality and connectivity, as well as societal health and well-being. In addition, in collaboration with municipal planners, local stakeholders, and partners from a local greenspace learning alliance, we identified opportunities for citizen engagement activities to encourage interest in wildlife gardening as part of a ‘pollinator pledge’. We conclude that this quantitative, spatially explicit and transferable approach provides a useful decision-making tool for targeting nature-based solutions to improve biodiversity and increase environmental stewardship, with the aim of providing a more attractive city to live, work and invest in.

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