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Published: 11 Jan, 2021

Umeå University’s LONA days draw attention to wild pollinators

NEWS On 29-30 August, Umeå University will launch exciting upcoming activities linked to the project “Pollinating Insects in Västerbotten”. Students and researchers involved with the project will also spend those days out in the field, taking stock of pollinators, weather permitting.

Text: Ingrid Söderbergh

"Because of the corona pandemic, we are launching the activities digitally in the form of four short presentation videos and some documents describing some of our inventory studies of pollinators in the Umeå region," says project leader Natuschka Lee, researcher at the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science at Umeå University.

LONA stands for Local Nature Conservation Initiative and is managed by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency in collaboration with municipalities and county administrative boards around Sweden. It is the largest national investment to date in various types of long-term conservation commitments for the benefit of nature conservation, outdoor recreation and public health.

For three years now, researchers and students at Umeå University have been participating in a LONA project entitled "Pollinating Insects in Västerbotten" – often shortened to the slogan "Pollinate Norrland". The project is being carried out in collaboration with many organisations and people in the Umeå region and beyond.

Originally, the aim of this project was to build up a basic bank of knowledge and then set up different types of insect hotels in various places in Umeå.

"However, we quickly came to realise that it's not enough just to set up insect hotels and then randomly sprinkle some seeds," says Natuschka Lee. For an optimal long-term nature conservation strategy, it is important to first establish concrete facts about pollinator ecology in high northern latitudes – not only out in the countryside but also in built-up areas like Umeå, which is after all one of the fastest growing cities in Sweden. How has this rapid expansion affected pollinators and what is Umeå City doing to compensate for the rapid changes taking place in the original environment?

After that, the project participants realised that the current bank of knowledge is rather limited but at the same time too extensive for amateurs to handle. Although there are quite a number of factual books and databases, many of them focus only on a limited selection of pollinators and their plant requirements, or require complicated search processes to find the practical information needed. Very few people in Sweden have sufficient knowledge on how to identify all pollinators and their plants. There is not even any solid teaching on pollination ecology in the current basic level biology curriculum.

To address these shortcomings, the project team at Umeå University has broadened its ambitions and is investing in a number of knowledge-building projects. Students, pupils and other interested parties have had the opportunity to participate in the various projects which are:

1) Increase the number of inventory routes of pollinators and their plants in different locations in Umeå.

2) Create a solid database, "Pollinator flora", of all pollinators and their different living conditions in Sweden and a large part of the Nordic region. This also includes a pollen database for Norrland. 

3) Organise knowledge-building activities linked to pollination (lectures, workshops, hiking trails) for the general public.

4) Initiate the research and teaching network Arthropodum at Umeå University and SLU.

5) Initiate new research projects on the theme of pollination ecology that span an exciting range of fields from plant and insect ecology, microbiology and health issues to landscape ecology and climate issues.

6) Initiate a photo series of pollinators in Norrland and set up collaborations with artists on these themes.

In connection with another project with the Swedish Board of Agriculture, an apiary has also been established on Umeå University's campus – "Campus Apiary" and collaborations are underway with several local beekeepers and an EU project organised by Nordens Ark.

The project “Pollinating Insects in Västerbotten” is taking place in close cooperation with Umeå Municipality, The County Administrative Board of Västerbotten, Akademiska Hus, SLU, Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan i Umeå, a selection of schools in Umeå, UmU holding AB, nature societies (Svensk Dagfjärilsövervakning, Pollinera Sverige, Naturskyddsföreningen Rädda Bina, Norrlands Entomological Förening), artists (Bildmuseet and Konsthall Norra Kvarken) and, last but not least, Umeå University's own collaborative project with Umeå City.

For more information, please contact:

Natuschka Lee
Research fellow