Research Press Release

Ecology: Status of Britain’s wild pollinating insects assessed

Nature Communications

March 27, 2019

An assessment of changes in the areas of Britain occupied by wild pollinator bee and hoverfly species between 1980 and 2013 is presented in Nature Communications. The study reports that a third of the species experienced declines. However, key bee species responsible for crop pollination increased.

Pollinator loss is a widespread concern with implications for food production and threats to pollinators include habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change. However, large-scale estimates of changes in the distributions of pollinating insects have been lacking.

Gary Powney and colleagues combined data for 353 wild bee and hoverfly species with modelling approaches to estimate the proportion of 1 km2 grid cells occupied by these pollinators between 1980 and 2013. The authors found there was a net loss of 11 species (4 bees and 7 hoverflies) on average per cell over the time period. They also identified a 55% decline in species inhabiting uplands. However, a 12% increase in common crop pollinator species, such as Bombus terrestris, was observed.

The authors suggest that farmland environmental policies may be aiding common crop pollinators, although pollinating insects from outside agriculture remain under threat. They argue that further effort is needed to develop new management approaches that restore habitat and food resources for pollinators across the wider landscape.


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