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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Pollinating Insect-biology, Management, Systematics Research

Title: Detecting insect pollinator declines on regional and global scales.

item Lebuhn, Gretchen
item Droege, Sam
item Conner, Edward
item Gemmill-herren, Barbara
item Potts, Simon
item Minckley, Robert
item Griswold, Terry
item Jean, Robert
item Kula, Emanuel
item Roubik, David
item Cane, James - Jim
item Wetherill, Karen
item Frankie, Gordon
item Parker, Frank

Submitted to: Conservation Biology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/14/2012
Publication Date: 12/2/2012
Citation: Lebuhn, G., Droege, S., Conner, E.F., Gemmill-Herren, B., Potts, S.G., Minckley, R.L., Griswold, T.L., Jean, R., Kula, E., Roubik, D.W., Cane, J.H., Wetherill, K., Frankie, G., Parker, F. 2012. Detecting insect pollinator declines on regional and global scales. Conservation Biology. 27(1):113-120.

Interpretive Summary: For agriculture, 35% of the global food supply benefits from or depends on animal pollinators and would be vulnerable to pollinator loss. A recent assessment of the global economic contribution of animal pollination services is $215 billion, representing 9.5% of the value of the world agricultural production used for human food in 2005. Those crops that depend on pollination services are high-value, averaging values of $1,063 per ton, against $211 per ton for those crops, such as rice, wheat or corn, which produce human food without the help of animal pollination. Therefore, a diversification into thse higher-value horticultural crops is an available and attractive strategy to alleviate poverty among many smallholder farmers around the world. Thus, pollination services that maintain or increase yields in agronomic and horticultural crops are very important to food production and security, healthy diets, and farmer livelihoods. Besides pollinating crops, animals pollinate approximately three-fourths of all flowering plant species, whose medicinal, ecological, water and habitat secuirty value, timber, and conservation economic values likely equal or exceed those of agricultural crops.

Technical Abstract: Recently, there has been considerable concern about declines in pollinator populations in both agricultural and natural habitats. The value of pollination services to agriculture, primarily by bees, is conservatively estimated to exceed $200 billion U.S. annually and the value of pollination services to ecosystems is thought to be worth at least this amount. However, because no monitoring program exists to evaluate pollinator declines at a globval or even continental scale, it is difficult to quantify declines in bee populations, or estimate how pervasive such declines may be and what effects they are having on pollinator services to plants. Using data from a collection of international long-term surveys of pollinators, we develop a cost-effective program to monitor pollinators at local, regional or even global scales that has sufficient power to detect, over a five year period, small (5%) changes in the number of species, changes in the total abundance of bees, and in some cases, changes in the abundance of individual species. We present and evaluate the power of our strategy. Give the role pollinators play in food security and maintaining functioning ecosystems, the estimated $2 million dollar cost of establishing a global monitoring program represents a relatively small investment compared to the potential economic risk of severe pollinator losses. Based on the precautionary principle alone, we recommend the establishment of regional and international monitoring programs to detect changes in pollinator communities. Furthermore, we proposed that our plan of action can serve as a model for developing similar programs to monitor other aspects of ecosystem functioning in the face of global environmental change and challenges.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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