Solar Power makes biodiversity bloom: the UK study that confirms benefits for bees and butterflies

A Study Reveals How UK Solar Parks, When Properly Managed, Can Become Vital Habitats for Supporting Pollinators Such as Bees and Butterflies, Thus Contributing to Biodiversity

Solar power could also be beneficial to biodiversity, especially for pollinator insects, which would return to reproduce and thrive in fields where solar panels are correctly installed. This is confirmed by a new British study showing how solar parks are proving to be the new heroes for bees and butterflies.

The study, conducted by a team of scientists from Lancaster University, in collaboration with the University of Reading, has revealed that solar parks – if properly managed – can offer essential resources to counter the decline of these creatures in the UK. Published in the journal Ecological Solutions and Evidence, this research represents the first peer-reviewed study specifically analyzing pollinators within British solar parks, examining a total of 15 sites.

During the investigations, carried out in the summer of 2021, about 1,400 specimens of pollinators belonging to more than 30 different species were identified. Among these, nearly 900 butterflies, over 170 hoverflies, and more than 160 specimens including bumblebees, moths, and honeybees stood out. The meadow brown butterfly was the most frequent species, while bumblebees were spotted in two-thirds of the sites analyzed. Special attention was also given to the small heath butterfly, considered a priority species for biodiversity conservation, observed in three solar parks.

The determining factors for biodiversity in solar parks

The analysis highlighted two fundamental elements to encourage the presence of pollinators in solar parks: the variety of flowering plants present and the characteristics of the surrounding landscape. Sites with greater floristic diversity saw an increase in the abundance of pollinators and biodiversity. Moreover, it was observed that for pollinators, the variety of floral species is more significant than the quantity of flowering plants.

As mentioned, the landscape context also plays a key role. Biodiversity-focused solar parks, located in areas with fewer natural elements such as hedges, turn out to be particularly conducive environments for pollinators. These, in fact, tend to depend more on the food resources provided by the solar parks compared to those available in areas with a greater variety of habitats and food sources.

Hollie Blaydes, from Lancaster University and the lead author of the study, emphasized the urgency of increasing resources available for pollinators in landscapes, identifying solar parks as a potential solution to promote biodiversity. The research demonstrated how the careful selection of flowering plants can transform solar parks into rich and diverse habitats for pollinators, especially in less varied landscape contexts.

This research comes shortly after a similar American study, which reached the same conclusions, although it analyzed cultivated photovoltaic parks (the so-called agrivoltaic parks).

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