Solar park management impacts on pollinator biodiversity in temperate ecosystems

Blaydes, Hollie and Armstrong, Alona and Whyatt, Duncan and Potts, Simon (2024) Solar park management impacts on pollinator biodiversity in temperate ecosystems. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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In the race to net zero and with increasing land use change for renewable energy, there is a risk that climate change mitigation could worsen ecological decline. However, this land use transition could be used to enhance ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. Solar photovoltaic is the fastest growing renewable energy technology and offers notable potential to embed positive outcomes for biodiversity, including insect pollinators. Some pollinator groups have suffered population declines driven by large scale habitat loss and degradation, but reinstating suitable habitat can be an effective mitigation strategy. Pollinator habitat can be created within solar parks, but there is limited understanding of pollinator response and the effectiveness of interventions. This thesis uses results from an evidence review and modelling- and field-based studies to explore how solar parks could support pollinators and investigates the impacts of solar park management practices on pollinator biodiversity in temperate ecosystems. The results reveal that solar parks could enhance pollinator populations by providing foraging and reproductive resources, increasing landscape heterogeneity and connectivity, and providing microclimatic niches, if deployed and managed strategically. The importance of management is highlighted throughout the thesis and suggests that a greater abundance and richness of pollinators could be supported when solar parks are managed to provide more resources. The impacts of pollinator-focussed management could also spill over into the surrounding landscape, with potential benefits to nearby crop pollination services. However, the effectiveness of management practices are likely moderated by site-specific characteristics and wider landscape context, where solar parks could be most valuable to pollinators in resource-poor landscapes. Overall, this thesis provides some of the first insights into the potential for strategically managed solar parks to support pollinators and demonstrates how biodiversity benefits could be integrated into the renewable energy transition.

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Thesis (PhD)
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31 May 2024 15:00
Last Modified:
31 May 2024 15:00