News June 2024

Identification of important areas for pollinators in Flanders

The sharp and rapid decline of pollinators and other insects recently received a lot of attention from both scientists and the media. The main threats are:

  • fragmentation and habitat loss
  • pesticides
  • climate change
  • invasive non-native species such as the Asian hornet

To reverse this downward trend, we need to know which areas are important for insects in general and pollinators in particular. A next step is then to ensure appropriate management. A recently published report on the link between European protected habitat types and pollinators, allowed us to identify 226,140 ha of potentially important areas for pollinators. 79,044 ha (35%) of these are in Natura 2000 areas.

Grasslands (92,857 ha) comprise most of the important pollinator areas in Flanders, followed by non-Habitat Directive biotopes (51,892 ha) and forests (44,863 ha). A large proportion of coastal habitats, salt-loving vegetation and sea coastal dunes (both 94%) lie within Natura 2000 sites. Important heath and scrub vegetation for pollinators are 67% in Natura 2000 site. In contrast, important grassland biotopes (24%) and non-European habitat types (17%) are poorly represented in Natura 2000 sites.

The maps created here can be useful to set priorities when developing measures for pollinators, for example to control the Asian hornet or limit the use of pesticides. We also call for the collection of better baseline data on pollinators and the launch of a science-based monitoring network in Flanders. That way we can closely monitor trends in pollinator abundance.

Dirk Maes

Read more: Maes D, Adriaens T, Van de Meutter F, Maebe K, De Saeger S, De Knijf G, Hillaert J, Spanhove T, Vanormelingen P & Wils C (2024) Delineating important pollinator areas in Flanders (northern Belgium). Reports of the Research Institute for Nature and Forest 18. Research Institute for Nature and Forest (INBO), Brussels.

Image above: flowery grassland in Sint-Martens-Latem (photo Jeroen Mentens - Vildaphoto)


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