POLLINATING insects could thrive if improvements are made to environmental schemes across Europe, a new Scottish-led study has found.

More than 70% of crops around the world rely on insect pollinators, which scientists warn are currently in decline.

Last year a study, from experts at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford, found a third of British bees and hoverflies were seeing their numbers decrease.

The new research, led by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and featuring more than 20 pollinator experts from 18 countries, looked at a range of wildlife habitats on farmland to determine how well they support insect pollinators like bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies.

Intensive farming has been linked to the decline in the number of insect pollinators due to its associated loss of flower-rich habitats.

These areas provide the insects with food, nesting and breeding sites.

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In 2014 the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) defined a set of habitat and landscape features farmers need to incorporate to receive basic farm payments – but the SRUC-led team’s research found there are opportunities to improve these agri-environmental habitats with pollinator-friendly practices.

Lead researcher Dr Lorna Cole, an agricultural ecologist at SRUC who joined forces with 22 pollinator experts, said: “With the CAP post-2020 fast approaching, our study highlights that to effectively conserve pollinators, we need to improve habitat quality. With different habitats offering different resources, we also need to focus on increasing habitat diversity to ensure our countryside provides the range of resources pollinators require.”

The study’s findings will be used to inform the CAP post-2020.

Last year, analysis published in the journal Biological Conservation stressed the importance of maintaining insect pollinator numbers.

They warned if they continue to decrease, the world is heading toward the “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”.

Their research found more than 40% of insect species are declining, and a third are now endangered.

With the figures suggesting a 2.5% loss each year, the researchers warned that could mean they could vanish within the century.