By Niamh Anderson
A SCOTTISH university has been awarded £340,000 to help protect a variety of endangered bumblebees from extinction.
The grant will enable the Bumblebee Conservation Trust based at Stirling University to begin a three-year conservation project, helping to protect bumblebees and their habitat from becoming extinct.
Bumblebees play a vital role in the British ecosystem with hundreds of species of fruits and vegetables dependent on them for pollination.
And pollination is worth £400million to the UK’s economy alone but in the last 70 years, there has been a dramatic decrease in the population of Bumblebee’s which in turn has started to affect pollination.
In the UK, the grasslands on which bumblebees depend have reduced by 97% since the 1930’s.
This is a because of a change in farming and domestic gardening since the Second World War, resulting in fewer flowers for the bees to pollinate.
Working with landowners, farmers, the public and schools across the UK, the project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will raise awareness of these important pollinators and help inform people on how best to protect them.
Flower-rich habitat will be provided where it is needed most to reconnect the small isolated populations while a extensive awareness-raising programme, including an interactive website, community talks, learning packs for children, and a national wildlife self-assessment garden scheme, will be rolled out across the country.
Volunteers have played a key role in the development of this project and if successful, 500 regular bumblebee recorders will gather information on the population trends.
Chris Packham, BBCT President, Television Presenter and Naturalist, welcomed the award: “This is great news for bumblebee conservation in the UK. The funding boost from HLF will enable the Bumblebee Conservation Trust to better reach and engage with the general public on this important subject.
“The funding will also significantly increase the volume and quality of conservation work that they can undertake, helping to safeguard populations of some of our rarest and most beautiful bumblebees. That means more colourful flower-rich meadows for both wildlife and people to enjoy.”
Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland said: “This much-needed project gives us all the opportunity to learn more about the bumblebees and the role they play in our biodiversity. Young people are the future custodians of our natural heritage so their passion for it is vital. With some of the awareness-raising focussed specifically towards a young audience, it will inspire and empower them to help safeguard bumblebee populations for future generations.”