Safeguarding Pollinators


The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) 4th Plenary meeting concluded yesterday and we are pleased to report that 3 Whitley Award winners, Rodrigo Medellin, Damayanti Buchori and Dino Martins were working together on the assessment and were in attendance in Malaysia. Their focus was the ‘Safeguarding Pollinators’ session yesterday, 25th February 2016.



This first global assessment of pollinators, in the form of a two year study conducted and released today, has found that a growing number of pollinator species worldwide are being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made and threatening millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of food supplies.

The assessment, titled Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production and the first ever issued by IPBES and is a ground-breaking effort to better understand and manage a critical element of the global ecosystem. It is also the first assessment of its kind based on the available knowledge from science as well as indigenous and local knowledge systems.

130924 Dino golden bee crop
The good news is that a number of steps can be taken to reduce the risks to pollinators, including practices based on indigenous and local knowledge,” said Zakri Abdul Hamid, elected Founding Chair of IPBES at its first plenary meeting in 2012.

The safeguards that have come from this study include the promotion of sustainable agriculture which helps diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production. Other specific options include:

  • Maintaining or creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscapes.
  • Supporting traditional practices that manage habitat patchiness, crop rotation, and coproduction between science and indigenous local knowledge.
  • Education and exchange of knowledge among farmers, scientists, industry, communities, and the general public.
  • Decreasing exposure of pollinators to pesticides by reducing their usage, seeking alternative forms of pest control, and adopting a range of specific application practices, including technologies to reduce pesticide drift.
  • Improving managed bee husbandry for pathogen control, coupled with better regulation of trade and use of commercial pollinators.

Here are a few thought-provoking and important facts that have come out of the IPBES meeting on pollinators:
Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz Fonseca, Ph.D., co-chair of the assessment and Senior Professor at University of São Paulo. “Their health is directly linked to our own well-being.”

  • 20,000 species of wild bees, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals contribute to pollination.
  • +16.5% of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with extinction globally.
  • +40% of invertebrate pollinator species (particularly bees and butterflies) face extinction
    Pollinated crops include fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils – important dietary sources of vitamins and minerals.
  • Several pollinated crops represent an important source of income in developing countries, for example, coffee and cocoa.
  • More than 75% of the world’s food crops rely at least in part on pollination by insects and other animals.
  • Between US$235 billion and US$577 billion worth of annual global food production relies on direct contributions by pollinators.
  • Nearly 90% of all wild flowering plants depend at least to some extent on animal pollination.
  • In addition to food crops, pollinators contribute to crops that provide biofuels (e.g. canola and palm oils), fibers (e.g cotton), medicines, forage for livestock, and construction materials.

The IPBES was established in April 2012 as an independent intergovernmental body to carry out assessments on the state of the planet’s biodiversity, its ecosystems and the essential services they provide to society. IPBES is open to all member countries of the United Nations and currently has 124 members.
IPBES assessments lay out the options for policymakers to inform their policy decisions, although they do not directly make policy recommendations. The assessments are carried out on a volunteer basis by leading experts nominated by governments and interested organisations, and currently there are 1000 IPBES experts across the globe.