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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BEE DIVERSITY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTHY, SUSTAINABLE BEE POLLINATION SYSTEMS Title: Yes, we can! Detect pollinator declines on a global scale

item Lebuhn, Gretchen -
item Droege, Sam -
item Connor, Edward -
item Gemmill-Herren, Barbara -
item Potts, Simon -
item Minckley, Robert -
item Griswold, Terry
item Jean, Robert -
item Kula, Emanuel -
item Roubik, David -

Submitted to: Conservation Biology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 14, 2012
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Considerable concern has been raised concerning bee declines and the potential negative impacts of reduced numbers of pollinators on agricultural and natural environments. Yet there is currently no monitoring program in place that would detect such declines. A rigorous method to detect changes in bee populations is proposed that will detect small declines in bees over the relatively short time period of five years. Given the vital role of pollinators for food production, establishment of such monitoring programs is encouraged.

Technical Abstract: Recently there has been considerable concern about declines in bee communities, both in agricultural and natural habitats. The value of pollination to agriculture, provided primarily by bees, is > $200 billion US annually, and in natural ecosystems is thought to be even greater. However, because no monitoring program exists to accurately detect insect pollinator declines, it is difficult to quantify the status of bee communities, or estimate the extent of declines. We used data from multi-year studies of bee communities to develop a $2 million program to monitor pollinators at regional, national, or international scales. We estimate that a monitoring program based on 200-250 sampling locations would provide sufficient power to detect small (2-5%) annual declines in the number of species and in total abundance over a five-year period. To detect declines as small as 1% annually would require substantially more than 300 sampling locations and monitoring for as long as 10 years. Given the role of pollinators in food security and ecosystem function, we recommend establishment of integrated regional and international monitoring programs to detect change in pollinator communities. Our plan of action serves as a model for developing similar rigorous monitoring approaches, in the face of global environmental change.

Last Modified: 8/27/2016
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