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A Tool for Selecting Plants When Restoring Habitat for Pollinators

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Native pollinators and, particularly bees, are a critical component of agricultural systems. Unfortunately, many factors are leading to their declines, including habitat loss. Consequently, approaches have emerged that aim to restore pollinator habitat in managed landscapes. A widely adopted technique in Europe and North America is the planting of flowering shrubs and forbs along field edges. These habitats usually include a variety of species, chosen because they are attractive to pollinators and because they flower continuously over those pollinators' flight seasons. Because there are many potential plant species with different flowering times and pollinator preferences, selecting a subset is challenging. Here, we develop a tool that identifies a plant mix that optimizes some assessment criteria (e.g., pollinator visitation, richness, or phenology). We test our tool by showing that it identifies mixes that better satisfy these criteria than ones found using conventional expert-driven methods, when applied to a plant–pollinator dataset.

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