Farming News - Scientists propose ten-steps for pollinator protection

Scientists propose ten-steps for pollinator protection

25 Nov 2016

Pesticide regulation, diversified farming systems and long-term monitoring are all ways governments can help to secure the future of pollinators such as bees, flies and wasps, according to scientists.

In an article published in the journal Science on Friday, experts from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and University of Reading  set out ten clear ways in which governments can protect pollinating insects, which play a vital role in agriculture and horticulture. The researchers said their recommendations are especially timely, as a global assessment, published earlier this year by UN biodiversity platform IPBES confirmed that large-scale declines of wild pollinators are happening in north Europe and North America.

Dr Lynn Dicks, a UEA professor who worked on both the Science article and the IPBES report said, "The IPBES report has made it very clear that pollinators are important to people all over the world, economically and culturally. Governments understand this, and many have already taken substantial steps to safeguard these beautiful and important animals. But there is much more to be done. We urge governments to look at our policy proposals, and consider whether they can make these changes to support and protect pollinators, as part of a sustainable, healthy future for humanity.”

French environment minister Ségolène Royal has already announced measures to protect pollinators (including both insects and vertebrates like bats), under a National Pollinator Action Plan, which gained praise from the UN platform earlier this week.  

On Friday, Dr Dicks added, ”Agriculture plays a huge part. While it is partly responsible for pollinator decline, it can also be part of the solution. Practices that support pollinators, such as managing landscapes to provide food and shelter for them, should be promoted and supported. We also need to focus publicly funded research on improving yields in farming systems like organic farming, which are known to support pollinators."

"Pressure to raise pesticide regulatory standards internationally should be a priority. The World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have worked for many years to develop a global code of conduct on pesticide management, but there are still many countries that don't follow it. This means pesticides are in widespread use that are unacceptably toxic to bees, birds, even humans."

In addition to their ten principle asks, the team behind the Science article want to see more of a commitment to building knowledge around pollinators worldwide. They called for long-term monitoring programmes, especially in Africa, South America and Asia, where there is less available information about their status, though declines are expected to be occurring, as the same drivers behind losses in the global North are also occurring in these areas.

The ten suggested policies in full are:

  • Raise pesticide regulatory standards
  • Promote integrated pest management (IPM)
  • Include indirect and sublethal effects in GM crop risk assessments
  • Regulate movement of managed pollinators
  • Develop incentives, such as insurance schemes, to help farmers benefit from ecosystem services instead of agrochemicals
  • Recognize pollination as an agricultural input in extension services
  • Support diversified farming systems
  • Conserve and restore "green infrastructure" (a network of habitats that pollinators can move between) in agricultural and urban landscapes
  • Develop long-term monitoring of pollinators and pollination
  • Fund participatory research on improving yields in organic, diversified, and ecologically intensified farming