Researchers from the Lancaster University and University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, have proposed a series of recommendations to enhance pollinator biodiversity in solar parks. “The recommendations are not yet codified in guidelines but we hope that this study can provide scientific evidence to contribute to the formation of future guidelines and inform industry development of good practice for pollinators,” research co-author Holly Blaydes told pv magazine. “We hope to work with industry and policy [makers], as appropriate, to achieve this.”
She also explained that the findings are underpinned by literature which focused on the U.K. and northwest Europe, and are, thus, valid for these regions. “However, overarching outcomes are likely to be appropriate to other temperate regions and some of the findings will be universal as the underpinning ecology of pollinators is similar everywhere,” she added. “But, pollinator species vary with region and so to ensure a robust evidence base and identify important differences, ideally, a similar review would be undertaken.”
In the paper Opportunities to enhance pollinator biodiversity in solar parks, published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, the British group explained that biodiversity could be both positively and negatively affected by solar parks, and associated land-use change. In agricultural landscapes that are intensively managed and species-poor, however, solar parks may help to restore the ideal conditions for pollinator habitats. “Creating suitable habitat on solar parks, which are commonly located amongst intensively managed agricultural land, could offer refuges for pollinators in landscapes where much habitat has been lost whilst also increasing landscape heterogeneity and connectivity,” the scientists emphasized.
They created a database with pollinator groups, themes, sub-themes, interventions, and the impact of interventions on pollinators. All of these data were analyzed, each considering foraging resources; nesting; breeding and reproductive resources; site management; landscape and connectivity; and climate. “Management recommendations were based on the evidence within one, or multiple, sub-themes, and assigned a confidence level based on the confidence levels of the relevant sub-themes,” they explained. “Our review suggests enhancement of pollinator biodiversity is achievable through undertaking considered management of solar parks to provide pollinator foraging and reproductive resources, enhance landscape heterogeneity and connectivity, and generate microclimatic variation.”
The academics concluded that solar parks could enhance pollinator resources where they are most needed. “Many pollinators are in decline, both in the U.K. and in other parts of the world,” Blaydes said. “Actions to conserve pollinators include reversing agricultural intensification and maintaining natural habitat, both of which can be achieved within solar parks.”
In another study published this month, a U.S. research group ascertained that the partial shading provided by solar parks creates a microclimate that favors the abundant growth of more varied flowers and pollinators. It also found that partial shading increases bloom abundance by delaying bloom timing, increasing foraging resources for pollinators during the hot and dry season.
Another recent study, from France, has also shown that the environmental consequences of solar on biodiversity tend to vary, depending on species and location.
*The article was updated on April 27 to specify that the research group also included scientists from the Lancaster University.
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