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- The Context of the Experiment
- It is generally accepted that some plants are
better at supporting wildlife than others. However, wildlife planting
guidance for gardeners is largely based on anecdotal evidence or, worse
still, assumptions that have been shown to be untrue, for example that
nettles in gardens will attract butterflies (Gaston et al. 2005).
One widely held assumption is that native plants are vital to attract wildlife to gardens. In fact, approximately 70% of plants in the ‘average’ garden are non-native yet these gardens are rich in biodiversity (Smith et al. 2006, Loram et al. 2008). Therefore it is possible that either native plants, which make up the minority of plants in the ‘average’ garden, are having a proportionally greater impact on wildlife than expected based on their abundance. or that non-native plants provide a more valuable resource for biodiversity than is usually assumed.
To begin to provide answers the Plants for Bugs project is testing the hypothesis that there is no difference in invertebrate diversity associated with assemblages of native, near-native and exotic garden border plants.
- Plants for Bugs is a field experiment which
compares invertebrate diversity on plots containing one of three plant
assemblages (treatments) based on the geographical origin of the plants.
- Native plants (naturally occurring in Britain and of British provenance where possible)
- Near-native plants (not native to Britain, but originating in the Northern hemisphere)
- Exotic plants (not native to Britain, but originating in the Southern hemisphere)
The plant assemblages were designed to be as similar as possible across the treatments in terms of plant height, density and position within the plots. The plots were treated as ‘garden-like’ as possible, i.e. visually appealing and weed free.
Data collection and analysisProtocols for collection and identification of invertebrates were established during the pilot year (2009). Where possible, collected invertebrates were identified to species and classified to guild (e.g. predators, herbivores, detritivores). The invertebrates were sampled on at least five occasions each year using pitfall traps and baited refuge traps for ground fauna, suction sampling for invertebrates found on plants, and direct observation of flying insect visitors.
In addition, a PhD project in collaboration with University of Roehampton is investigating and monitoring the soil fauna and function. This involved taking soil cores from the plots before extracting invertebrates using Tullgren funnels. Soil function was assessed using litter bags.
By the end of 2013 more than 80,000 invertebrates had been counted and identified, including 47 different species of ground beetle, more than 50 species of spider and 16 species of butterfly.
Measurements of additional factors that may affect invertebrate abundance and diversity have been made, including photographic records and assessments of soil moisture, flower number, canopy cover and plant volume.
Data analysis and interpretation
During the winter of 2013/14 analysis of the data will be carried out and the first results prepared for publication in the scientific literature. The results of the experiment will also be interpreted to provide advice for gardeners who wish to increase biodiversity in their own gardens.
- Further information
More on Plants for Bugs
Plants for bugs blog
University of Roehampton
- Gaston K J, Warren P H, Thompson K & Smith
R M (2005). Urban domestic gardens (IV): the extent of the resource and
its associated features. Biodiversity and Conservation 14: 3327-3349
Loram A, Warren P H and Gaston K J (2008). Urban Domestic Gardens (XIV): The Characteristics of Gardens in Five Cities. Environmental Management42:361-376
Smith R M, Warren P H, Thompson K and Gaston K J (2006). Urban domestic gardens (VI): environmental correlates of invertebrate species richness. Biodiversity and Conservation15:2415-2438.
Plant list for the Plants for Bugs project
Native Plants (UK)
Armeria maritima - Sea thrift
Buxus sempervirens - Common Box
Cytisus scoparius - Common Broom
Deschampsia cespitosa - Tufted Hair Grass
Dianthus deltoides - Maiden Pink
Dryopteris filix-mas - Male Fern
Eupatorium cannabinum - Hemp Agrimony
Geranium sanguineum - Bloody Cranesbill
Helianthemum nummularium - Common Rockrose
Hyacinthoides non-scripta - English Bluebell
Knautia arvensis - Field Scabious
Leucanthemum vulgare - Ox-eye Daisy
Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Thomas' - Common Honeysuckle
Lythrum salicaria - Purple Loosestrife
Malva moschata - Musk Mallow
Molinia caerulea - Purple Moor Grass
Primula vulgaris - Primrose
Rosa rubiginosa - Sweet Briar
Scabiosa columbaria - Small Scabious
Stachys officinalis - Betony
Valeriana officinalis - Common Valerian
Veronica spicata - Spiked Speedwell
Viburnum opulus - Guelder Rose
Armeria juniperifolia - Juniper-leaved Thrift
Calamagrostis brachytricha - Korean feather reed grass
Dianthus plumarius - Cottage pink
Dryopteris wallichiana - Alpine Wood Fern
Eupatorium maculatum 'Orchard Dene' - Joe Pye weed
Genista lydia - Lydian broom
Geranium macrorrhizum - Bigroot Cranesbill
Halimium umbellatum - Umbel-flowered Sun Rose
Hyacinthoides hispanica - Spanish Bluebell
Knautia macedonica - Macedonican Scabious
Lonicera tragophylla - Chinese Honeysuckle
Lythrum virgatum 'Dropmore Purple' - Wand Loosestrife
Malva alcea - Greater Musk Mallow
Primula japonica 'Miller's Crimson' - Japanese Primrose
Rhodanthemum hosmariense - Moroccan Daisy
Rosa rubrifolia - Red-leaved Rose
Sarcococca hookeriana var.humilis - Christmas box
Scabiosa caucasica - Caucasian Scabious
Stachys byzantina - Lamb's Ear
Stipa tenuissima - Mexican Feather Grass
Valeriana phu 'Aurea' - Golden Valerian
Veronica austriaca subsp.teucrium - Saw-leaved Speedwell
Viburnum sargentii - Sargent viburnum
Acaena microphylla - New Zealand Burr
Alstroemeria psittacina - Parrot Lily
Blechnum chilense - Chilean Hard Fern
Brachyglottis monroi - Monro's Ragwort
Callistemon rigidus - Stiff Bottlebrush
Carex testacea - Orange New Zealand Sedge
Diascia personata 'Hopleys'
Eccremocarpus scaber - Chilean Glory Bower
Eryngium agavifolium - Agave-leaved Sea Holly
Euryops tysonii - Euryops
Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis - Lady's Eardrops
Hebe rakaiensis - Rakai hebe
Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black' - Leptinella 'Platt's Black'
Lobelia tupa - Devil's Tobacco
Mirabilis jalapa - Marvel of Peru
Nerine bowdenii - Bowden Cornish lily
Osteospermum jucundum - Boneseed
Oxalis adenophylla - Sauer Klee
Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius - Sea rosemary
Pittosporum tenuifolium - Tawhiwhi
Sisyrinchium striatum - Pale Yellow-eyed Grass
Uncinia rubra - Red Hook Sedge
Verbena bonariensis - Purple Top
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