Sustainable Pollination Services for UK Crops




Pollinator declines

There is an increasing body of evidence highlighting the decline of insect pollinators. The recent plight of the honey bee has been well documented with significant losses seen in parts of Europe (Potts et al., 2010) and the US (van Englesdorp et al., 2008). In fact in England, this decline has been particularly significant with a 54% drop in colony numbers between 1985 and 2005 (Potts et al., 2010) although recent take up of apiculture is encouraging.

This loss of an important crop pollination resource increases our reliance on other, wild pollinators, including bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies. Alarmingly we have also seen a decline in the abundance and diversity of many of these species on a regional and global scale (Potts et al., 2010). In the UK and the Netherlands, solitary bee species diversity has declined across much of the landscape, with pollinator communities becoming increasingly dominated by a few species (Biesmeijer et al., 2006). Similar losses have been seen for bumblebees with range constrictions and loss of species in the UK (Goulson et al., 2008) and US (Cameron et al., 2011).

This loss of insect pollinator species represents a real threat for the ongoing pollination of crops in the UK and has serious implications for food security. The loss of specialist pollinators will affect the yield of crops which are reliant on a few key species; the relationship between long tongued bumblebees and field beans for example. Furthermore, the loss of general pollinator diversity will mean we have a less robust and adaptable pollinator community meaning the yields of pollinator dependent crops will become more vulnerable and unpredictable in the face of a changing climate.

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