Honeybees are common pollinators, but wild bees, including bumblebees and other insects such as hoverflies, beetles and butterflies, are also necessary for pollination and are important in many ways. With simple steps, we can help these insects thrive so they can contribute to a diversity of rich wildflowers, cultures and natural experiences.
Rapeseed, apples, strawberries and fava beans are some examples of important crops that depend on or benefit from pollination by insects and other animals. It is largely the bees that contribute to this in agriculture. However, wild bees and other pollinators are also important for agriculture and the whole ecosystem.
“There is great interest in pollinators, but knowledge about them is not as widespread,” says Henrik Smith, professor of animal ecology and coordinator of BECC, a research environment at Lund University, focused on biodiversity, ecosystem services and climate change.
What do pollinators do?
Pollinators contribute not only by pollinating flowering crops in fields and orchards, but also by pollinating wild fruits and berries, and flowering plants in general. It is one of many, mostly invisible, ecosystem services in the form of natural ecological processes provided by animals and plants, and one of the most important for the environment and human well-being.
“Crops provide us with great economic benefit, while a diversity of wild plants contribute to different functions in ecosystems. They also provide us with unique experiences,” says Henrik Smith.
Well-functioning ecosystems are also crucial in combating climate change and preserving biodiversity.
“We would miss these values if they ceased to exist. However, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to assign a monetary value to them. There is also an ethical consideration, that is to say a moral obligation to preserve biodiversity for the future generations.”
Importance of species richness
Different types of plants provide resources in the form of food and shelter for a variety of different insects and other animals. This increases the possibilities of dealing with environmental changes such as climate change. Indeed, when a particular species is disadvantaged, another species can compensate for it fully or partially.
It is therefore crucial to preserve the diversity of pollinators, both for themselves and for the plants they pollinate, since they are interdependent. Since it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict which pollinators will be able to survive in a future climate or which pollinators will be needed to pollinate future crops, it is important to maintain a diversity of pollinators.
Henrik Smith emphasizes the seriousness of the situation:
“Different species contribute to pollination in different ways. However, they also have different habitat requirements. A loss of wild pollinators in particular is now seen as a growing threat to wild plant diversity.”
Other Methods and Behaviors
Modern efficient agriculture has reduced pollinators’ access to floral resources, both in the form of natural grasslands and in fields in the form of weeds. The management of many environments, such as well-mown lawns or well-maintained roadsides, also reduces the access of pollinators to floral resources.
Biodiversity and conservation science researchers work closely with the County Administrative Board and the Swedish Board of Agriculture to contribute their knowledge to new conservation programs and the development of new policies and guidelines. This includes new ways of managing urban green spaces and ways to integrate nature conservation into agricultural production.
“Urban environments can be important for endangered species, especially in the working landscape of Skåne. Urban nature is also about equity; people who have fewer opportunities to visit natural areas can experience the nature in their immediate environment.”
When species and environments are threatened, certain natural areas must be totally protected. In other cases, it is a question of including the consideration of biodiversity in more sustainable production systems and conscious actions. Semi-natural pastures support pollinators, but one dilemma is that these pastures depend on grazing animals, which contributes to climate change.
“It is possible to reduce the climate impact at the same time with the conservation of semi-natural pastures”, explains Henrik Smith. “We have more than two cards to play, it is possible to reduce our consumption of animal products and ensure that what we consume is produced in a sustainable way.”
Conscious sustainable decisions
For Henrik Smith, who took an early interest in animals and nature, it was clear that he would devote himself to the preservation of biodiversity. He thinks it’s important that young people today have the chance to experience how exciting and fun biology can be, to learn more about different organisms and species, but also how they are bound in nature. He says:
“Our experience of nature depends on our knowledge of it. If I recognize different plants or bird calls, I am able to understand and interpret nature in a richer way.”
More knowledge and increased awareness can be an important part of the solution. It is therefore important to work closely with interested stakeholders and those who can have influence.
“What we buy has an impact. Supermarket chains can help by including biodiversity effects as a condition in their sourcing process.”
Many people are committed to influencing their immediate environment to support wild pollinators and collect data about them. One way to help increase biodiversity in your own neighborhood is to create habitats for wild bees, for example by drilling holes in pieces of wood or old logs, which can become homes for them.
“When ecosystem services are made more visible, we also become aware of their value. This can help us make more conscious and sustainable decisions. This applies to us as individuals, but also to politicians, power public bodies, municipalities and organisations”, concludes Henrik Smith.
Pollinators contribute to the diversity of flowering plants
Provided by Lund University
Quote: Habitat of Important Wild Pollinators Threatened (February 14, 2022) Retrieved February 14, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-02-habitat-important-wild-pollinators-threat.html
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