According to University of Exeter researchers satellites and drones can be used to track the availability of flowers, and this could be combined with behavioural studies to see the world through the eyes of insects.
“Drones can give us fine details of a landscape – on the scale of individual flowers – and combining this with satellite imagery, we can learn about the food available to pollinators across a large area,” Dunia Gonzales, from the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter, said.
According to Gonzales, up to now, most research using satellites has focussed on large-scale agricultural landscapes such as oilseed rape, maize and almond farms. “We highlight the need to study landscapes with complex communities of plants and pollinators. These vary from place to place – and using satellites and drones together is a good way to learn about these local differences.”
Pollinators provide a range of benefits, especially to humans by pollinating food crops. Much about their behaviour and habitats – and the impact of climate and habitat change caused by humans – remains unknown. “With some pollinator species in decline, including many wild bees, we urgently need this understanding to protect not just pollinators in general but also the great diversity of species that each play vital roles in complex ecosystems,” Gonzales said.
Data from satellites and drones could help researchers understand the threats they face and how to design conservation programmes.