Submitted to: Entomological Society of America Newsletter
Publication Type: Other
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/1/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: The possibility that pollinator populations are declining has raised increasing concern in recent years. The book "The Forgotten Pollinators" drew attention to disconcerting evidence of declines in pollinators, including bees, birds, and bats. The Society for Conservation Biology published a position paper that recognized potential declines in various pollinators and called for increased attention to pollination trends, including monitoring and systematics of invertebrate pollinators. Are these declines real? Do they represent broadscale declines in natural populations, or are they simply anecdotes based on local observations? If pollinator numbers are indeed dwindling, the implications for natural systems and for agriculture would be profound. Potential causes of declines in bee populations are easy to identify. Among the possible causes: habitat fragmentation and loss, pesticide use, introduction and the spread of alien species, including plant species. Although these possible effects may be obvious, solid evidence of pollination pattern changes is harder to come by. For wild species and even feral honey bees there are no standardized monitoring programs that could provide convincing evidence of trends in bee populations. Pollination pattern trends of wild plants are similarly difficult to document. The need to address these possible trends has generated interest in the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture (DOI and USDA).
Technical Abstract: In May 1999, a joint USDA/DOI workshop on declining pollinators was held at the USDA Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The workshop included academic and museum scientists as well as researchers from the two agencies. Recommendations from the workshop included establishment of long-term monitoring programs for feral honey bees and selected native species, surveys of pollinator populations along a cline from urban to suburban, agricultural and natural areas, as well as systematics. Also, research was recommended on the roles of pollinators in natural systems, the agricultural value of wild pollinators, and methods to restore extirpated or artificially modified pollinator populations. In October, 1999 a meeting sponsored by the National Science Foundation was held at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in Santa Barbara, California, at which 20 bee researchers, pollination biologists, and statisticians focused on the technical issues associated with detecting trends in populations of bees and other insect pollinators. The increased interest in potential pollinator declines is encouraging, but the end result of these efforts is difficult to predict. Perhaps DOI lands, including national parks and Fish and Wildlife Service refuges, can play a role in maintaining the diversity of bees and other insects and in providing needed corridors for migratory vertebrate pollinators. Even highly developed lands can potentially support pollinator populations by providing floral resources during periods of natural death or suitable nesting sites for selected bee species.