Agriculture has the chance to help or hinder our most important pollinators
London/Halle(Saale). The consolidation of the agri-food industries with a small numbers of companies which now having unprecedented control of land is a major potential threat to pollinators. But it could be also a chance, says an international study, published in the open access journal PeerJ. The researchers including iDiv member Prof Robert Paxton of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg used a horizon scanning approach to identify issues that are likely to impact pollinators, either positively or negatively, over the coming three decades.
They found that the high priorities issues are: (1) corporate control of global agriculture, (2) novel systemic pesticides, (3) novel RNA viruses, (4) the development of new managed pollinators, (5) more frequent heatwaves and drought under climate change, and (6) the potential positive impact of reduced chemical use on pollinators in non-agricultural settings.
“The homogenization of agriculture effectively means that corporations are applying blanket production systems to landscapes that are vastly different, significantly reducing the diversity and number of native pollinators,” explained Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species and Aquatic Programs, The Xerces Society and Deputy Chair, IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group. Until now pollinator management was often focused on past impact. “The horizon scanning approach helped us to find opportunities for pre-emptive practice, legislation, and policy to sustainably manage pollinators for future generations”, added Prof Robert Paxton of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and iDiv.
The loss of pollinator could have very real consequences for the well-being because 35% of global crop production, and 85% of wild flowering plants rely on animal pollinators, typically insects like bees or birds. Therefore it is of prime importance to stop the loss of these animals. The study also found positive opportunities: for example, the current and future reduction of chemical use in non-agricultural land, gardens and parks could be fruitful for pollinator populations.
Press release of the Royal Holloway University of London: https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/aboutus/newsandevents/news/2016-articles/back-the-bees-and-friends-big-agriculture-has-the-chance-to-help-or-hinder-our-most-important-pollinators-research-argues.aspx
Brown et al. (2016) A horizon scan of future threats and opportunities for pollinators and pollination. PeerJ 4:e2249 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.2249