• Plant species or flower colour diversity? Identifying the drivers of public and invertebrate response to designed annual meadows.

      Hoyle, Helen; Norton, Briony, A.; Dunnett, Nigel; Richards, J. Paul; Russell, Jean M.; Warren, Philip H.; University of Sheffield (Elsevier, 2018-09-01)
      There is increasing evidence of the benefits of introducing urban meadows as an alternative to amenity mown grass in public greenspaces, both for biodiversity, and human wellbeing. Developing a better understanding of the meadow characteristics driving human and wildlife response is therefore critical. We addressed this by assessing public and invertebrate response to eight different annual meadow mixes defined by two levels of plant species diversity and two levels of colour diversity, sown in an urban park in Luton, UK, in April 2015. On-site questionnaires with the visiting public were conducted in July, August and September 2015. Invertebrate responses were assessed via contemporaneous visual surveys and one sweep net survey (August 2015). Flower colour diversity had effects on human aesthetic response and the response of pollinators such as bumblebees and hoverflies. Plant species diversity, however, was not a driver of human response with evidence that people used colour diversity as a cue to assessing species diversity. Plant species diversity did affect some invertebrates, with higher abundances of certain taxa in low species diversity meadows. Our findings indicate that if the priority for sown meadows is to maximise human aesthetic enjoyment and the abundance and diversity of observable invertebrates, particularly pollinators, managers of urban green infrastructure should prioritise high flower colour diversity mixes over those of high plant species diversity. Incorporating late-flowering non-native species such as Coreopsis tinctoria (plains coreopsis) can prolong the attractiveness of the meadows for people and availability of resources for pollinators and would therefore be beneficial.