Trash to Treasure

Flowers and pollinating insects could thrive in restored landfills, according to a study in Restoration Ecology.

The spread of farms and other development in Europe is threatening insects that pollinate plants. These bugs play a crucial role in ecosystems and aid crop production, providing billions of euros’ worth of agricultural services. To keep these insects from dwindling further, people may need to create new patches of pollinator-friendly habitat.

The study authors wanted to find out if restored landfills would fit the bill. England and Wales have about 28,000 hectares of working landfills, and about 100 sites close per year. When a landfill closes, clay and soil are usually laid over the surface. Some sites are also covered with grass seed and fertilizer.

The team compared nine restored landfills to well-preserved grasslands in the United Kingdom. They found 63 flowering plant species at the landfills and 74 species at the preserved grasslands. The two types of sites also hosted similar numbers of pollinating insect species, including bumblebees and hoverflies.

Restored landfills therefore “have the potential to play a role in reversing declining populations of flower-visiting insects,” the researchers write. These former dumps could even channel pollinators to farms through connecting hedgerows. Roberta Kwok | 15 January 2013

Source: Tarrant, S. et al. 2012. Grassland restoration on landfill sites in the East Midlands, United Kingdom: An evaluation of floral resources and pollinating insects. Restoration Ecology doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2012.00942.x.

Image © Gts |



  • Linda Thompson January 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    What if the farms were to become organic and sustainable, rather than relying on pesticides and herbicides and genetically-modified seeds? Studies have shown that bees are being adversely affected by pesticides. Isn’t that the real problem? And wouldn’t a return to a natural way of farming be the real solution?


    • taro March 8, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      im all for organic foods but new research has showed that it is not possible to produce enough organic foods to support the earths population and consumption


  • Dave Coulter January 17, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    The brief doesn’t really elaborate on what is knocking back the pollinators, farming AND development. Although a reduction in pesticides surely wouldn’t hurt.

    Thanks for a very positive article with some practical implications…


  • Dr. Gordon Frankie February 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    The other possibility is to establish high quality native pollinator habitat onto the farms themselves. We are currently working on a project, Farming for native Bees, that does just that. We have found that a 1-acre plot of habitat can draw as many as 50 species of native bees, which not only protects native pollinators, but greatly enhances crop pollination. Recent studies have shown that honey bees become more effective pollinators when other bee species are present, a great benefit to farmers.


Leave a Comment