Ten policies to benefit pollinators

Several pollinator experts from around the globe contributed to a document relating to recommended government policies for pollinators. The suggestions include several insights stated in a document published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) last year. Authors recommend ten policies that would support and benefit pollinator populations.

  1. Raise pesticide regulatory standards.

Although pesticides are heavily regulated in the U.S. and other European countries, they are not consistently regulated across the globe. In addition, risks to pollinators are not always considered when regulations are made. The authors state that making standards consistent around the world would benefit pollinators.

  1. Promote integrated pest management (IPM).

In addition, integrated pest management should also be more widely used, as it often decreases pesticide use. Strategies such as crop rotation, field margin management and biological control often reduce insect pests, disease, and weeds without increased use of herbicides.

  1. Include indirect and sublethal effects in GM crop risk assessments.

Crop risk assessments for genetically modified crops do not consider how GM crops reduce the number of flowers because growers tend to increase the use of herbicides. Growers may consider small landscape plantings to improve pollinator health if growing GM crops.

  1. Regulate movement of managed pollinators.

With honey bee declines, some commercial beekeepers have begun managing bumble bees, leading to invasions of non-native bees and increasing the risk of disease for the native population. The United Nations is highlighting invasive species in its strategic plan.

  1. Develop incentives, such as insurance schemes, to help farmers benefit from ecosystem series instead of agrochemicals.

Agriculture can help increase pollinator populations by selecting a small portion of their land to provide habitats for beneficials. However, growers may fear dedicating land to non-crop habitats because of the potential for loss. The authors suggest that better crop insurance might reduce barriers to creating spaces that sustain beneficial insects.

  1. Recognize pollination as an agricultural input in extension services.

Extension services can help growers overcome barriers to beneficial habitat plantings by addressing lack of knowledge about how pollinators can benefit the farming system and how diversified plantings support pollinators.

  1. Support diversified farming systems

Smaller cropping systems such as organic farms, home gardens and sustainable landscapes include pollinator-friendly plants and other practices including flowering hedgerows, habitat patchiness and intercropping. Practices such as these should be encouraged and supported.

  1. Conserve and restore “green infrastructure” (a network of habitats that pollinators can move between) in agricultural and urban landscapes.

Although policies focus on threatened species, most pollination is done by a few common species. Increasing the amount of green space can help increase populations of these species. Increased green space can also be randomly assigned, rather than linking it to agriculture.

  1. Develop long-term monitoring of pollinators and pollination.

Finally, authors argue that a longer-term, more widespread monitoring system for pollinators across the globe is necessary. Currently pollinator monitoring is done locally, primarily in North America and Europe.

  1. Fund participatory research on improving yields in organic, diversified and ecologically intensified farming.

Other areas of the world could benefit from more education and research on how to improve pollination in farming systems, especially those that rely on pollination for crop production. Funding research can help validate the other nine points in the list.

Source: Dicks, L.V., Viana, B., Bommarco, R. Brosi, B. del Coro Arizmendi, M., Cunningham, S.A., Galetto, L., Hill, R., Lopes, A.V., Pires, C., Taki, H., Potts, S.G. (24 Nov 2016). Ten policies for pollinators. Science. 354(6315), 975-976. [doi: 10.1126/science.aai9926]

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