We all know that transitioning towards solar and other renewable energy sources is good for the planet but establishing solar farms may also be a method of arresting global bee decline.
Global bee populations have been in significant decline since the late 1990s, mainly due to a combination of industrial agriculture, parasites/pathogens and climate change. This represents a threat to food security, with bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects provide an extremely valuable service in pollinating a third of all food consumed by humans. In fact, the busy work of bees is estimated to have a value of over $400 billion annually.
This has led to researchers around the world seeking potential solutions to prevent further decline in bee populations. Late last year, a research team from the U.S. Department of Energy found the land areas around solar farms make ideal locations for the types of plants that attract pollinators such as honey bees and butterflies.
The areas of land where solar farms have been situated generally go unused, often being filled with gravel or artificial grass. The team from the National Renewable Energy Lab looked at the potential benefits of swapping this with a low-growing meadow mix of grasses and flowers.
Their investigation found that co-locating solar farms with pollinator plants has a highly positive impact on local biodiversity for a range of plant and animal species. The team also discovered that in providing this type of pollinator habitat, crop yields on nearby agricultural land could also be improved.
With America expected to add around 25,000 square kilometres of solar farms by 2050, co-location could be key to preserving local biodiversity and agricultural productivity.
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