Linking agriculture and land use change to pollinator populations

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Inst of Integrative & Comparative Biolog

Abstract

There is growing evidence that both domestic honeybees and wild pollinators are in decline in Britain, as are the wildflowers that they both use for food. We expect these declines are linked, but there is little evidence to demonstrate what the links are, and what can be done to halt or reverse them. Among the most likely explanations for these declines are changes in the way the British landscape is managed: loss of natural habitats and increasingly intensive agricultural practices. We will test for links between such land use changes and the condition of British pollinator populations. One aspect of our work involves examining how pollinator populations and land use have changed over time, to test whether pollinator losses are correlated with landscape changes. This is made difficult because there is no national monitoring programme for pollinators, and so we only have scattered information about pollinator changes. To overcome this problem, we will take two contrasting approaches: (1) comparing how land use has changed in areas where we know pollinator populations either have declined markedly or have not done so, and (2) repeating historical surveys of pollinators in sites chosen to have undergone different amounts of subsequent land use change. A second focus of our work will be on how current land uses link to current honeybee, wild pollinator and wildflower populations. To do so, we need to survey pollinators and wildflowers in sites with very different sets of conditions in a carefully controlled manner. First we will use existing datasets to estimate likely flower densities in different habitats and regions, as well as the distribution of habitat types (and changes in them), various aspects agricultural management (including pesticide usage), and the density of domestic honeybee colonies. We will then choose a set of 96 sites in six clusters across Britain, with sites chosen to represent a wide range of flower resources, different natural and agricultural habitats, different levels of pesticide use, and different numbers of domestic honeybee hives. We will survey wildflower and pollinator populations at these sites, observe how well flowers are pollinated, and test how well honeybees and one wild bee species perform when placed at the different sites. This will be the largest scale survey of flower resources and pollinator communities ever performed. We will then examine how well pollinator populations can be predicted from flower densities, and how both are affected by various aspects of land use and agricultural management. The final aspect of our work will be to apply these findings to make recommendations as to how both domestic honeybees and wild pollinators can best be protected. This will build off of the results of the previous sections, which will provide links between specific land management options and pollinator stocks. Such findings could be of use to farmers, beekeepers, conservationists and policy makers, and so we will involve all four of these communities in the project, involving representatives of each on a project Steering Committee. We will hold workshops both at the beginning of the project (to get ideas for additional issues to study) and at the end of the project (to discuss our findings and their policy implications). We will edit fact-sheets and briefing papers for these different communities, and distribute them in specialist magazines and through a project web site. We will also make information available on a public website, including teaching materials and other resources about pollinator declines.

Technical Summary

There is growing evidence of declines in honeybees and wild pollinators, and parallel declines in animal-pollinated plants. Many likely drivers of these changes involve shifts in land use and agricultural practice. We will examine links between pollinators, floral resources and land management, using both historical analyses and current observations. Historical analyses will involve (1) assessing land-use change in sites with contrasting recent pollinator dynamics, and (2) resurveys of pollinators in sites with contrasting land use changes. We will calculate land cover change for sites identified in a recent analysis as having experienced contrasting shifts in bee and in hoverfly diversity. Land cover change will be assessed relative to 1930's, 1990 and 2000 surveys. Land use change will also be calculated for sites where pollinator surveys were performed pre-1980; matched sets with contrasting changes will be resurveyed using original and standard protocols. Maps of current land management will be derived from landcover, crop, grazing, AES and pesticide datasets. Pollinator and floral resource surveys will be conducted in 96 contrasting landscapes within 6 regional clusters over 2 years. Honeybee and solitary bee colonies will be set out to test landscape effects on foraging and colony growth, and pollination services assessed on test plant arrays and wildflowers. Data will be analysed with Bayesian network methods to assess the importance of different variables in explaining floral resources, honeybee performance, wild pollinator status and pollination services. Potential mitigation options will be explored throughout the research, and workshops will be held at the beginning and end of the project to explore mitigation-related issues and to promulgate results. Project recommendations will be drafted for stakeholder communities (farmers, beekeepers, conservationists, policy-makers) and disseminated through specialist magazines and electronically.

Planned Impact

We expect the proposed research to have high scientific impact, high policy relevance, and to be of high interest to the general public. Scientific impact: Our proposed research will provide an important step forward in pollinator research, providing the strongest test to date of the role of land management and agriculture in bee declines. Our work will be by far the largest scale pollinator habitat and floral resource inventory ever carried out. We anticipate at least a dozen high impact publications will result from the work, ranging from highly applied analyses of drivers of honeybee colony mortality and wild pollinator diversity declines to more theoretical discussions of plant-pollinator interaction networks. Policy relevance: Our proposed research has a high potential for direct application: * We will assess what aspects of land use, agricultural practice (including pesticide usage), floral resources and competing pollinator densities are associated with honey production and colony mortality in domesticated honeybee stocks. * We will assess the impact of land use, agricultural management practices, floral resourses and competing honeybee densities on wild pollinator density and diversity, with special attention to the role of current mitigation practices (agri-environmental schemes) and to designing potential future mitigation methods Concerns about the viability of honeybee stocks and wild pollinator populations have been the subject of growing national, European and global policy concern in recent years. Our work will assess the importance of agricultural practices and land management in driving these losses, and as such, has a high potential impact. We expect our results will be directly relevant to policy formation, in particular to the development and assessment of agri-environmental schemes, of ESA guidelines, and other land-management related policy initiatives. Issues of land use and agricultural management have a broad policy interest beyond the specific issues affecting pollinators (e.g. CAP reform, Habitats initiative), and our work will also contribute to this much broader policy discussion. Public interest: The proposed research is of high potential public interest: both pollinating insects and the flowers upon which they feed are widely valued by the public, and there is great interest in the maintenance of the British rural environment more generally. Thus we expect the results of our work to be of interest to the press, and through them to the public at large. As a team, we have substantial experience dealing with journalists, and all five participating institutions maintain active press offices, with whom we have good relations. We will also make available information about the project and about pollinator losses more broadly, including primary and secondary school teaching materials, through a user-friendly public website. Impact actions: Our work will be of direct relevance to farmers (and other land managers), beekeepers, conservationists and policy makers. To enhance our engagement with these groups, we will establish a project Steering Committee, involving representatives from relevant stakeholder organisations. A broader set of stakeholders will be involved in two project workshops, at the start and close of the project. Project findings will be disseminated through leaflets in specialist magazines and though a public website.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title "Every Last Mouthful" exhibition 
Description A modern illuminated manuscript exhibition, to be displayed at the Richard Attenborough Art Centre, Leicester & Nottingham, 2015-16. Funded by an Arts Council England grant. Includes interviews and photographs from the project. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact Improved public understanding of pollinator diversity and conservation issues, in a novel format. 
URL http://chatwinmartin.com
 
Description We have resurveyed twenty sites with good historical pollinator records, and have documented significant declines in pollinator diversity in 3/4 of them. We have shown that changes in landuse in and around these sites is correlated with pollinator diversity shifts.

We have measured nectar and pollen production for 176 of the commonest British insect-pollinated plant species, allowing floral resources to be quantified at landscape scale for the first time. This aspect of the project's findings have allowed us for the first time to assess national scale shifts in nectar production over recent decades. These results have recently been published in Nature, showing a substantial drop in floral resources at a national scale from the 1930s to 1978, followed by a period of stable low resources over the 1980s and 1990s, and an increase in resources in the most recent decade.

We have surveyed wild pollinator populations and pollination services in 96 sites across Britain, chosen based on national datasets to differ in four putative drivers of wild pollinator declines: habitat diversity, floral resources, pesticide pressure and domestic honeybee density. These estimates were ground-truthed in field surveys, showing reasonably good predictive power for most variables, suggesting that similar approaches may be applicable elsewhere.

The data analyses of effects on pollinators are still on-going, but results suggest strong geographical, environmental, and land-management correlates. The best fitting models suggest very different levels of impacts of the 4 drivers considered, and indeed contrasting effects on different pollinator groups (bees vs. hoverflies). However, it would be premature to detail the findings before publication.
Exploitation Route Initial results of our project have fed into the process of drafting a National Pollinator Strategy document.
Our field surveys are being used by a recently completed Defra-funded project as a model for a National Pollinator and Pollination Monitoring Programme.
Results of our field surveys and floral resource estimates have been used by Natural England in the process of designing agri-environmental management options post CAP-reform.
Our floral resource assay results have the potential to assist the design of gardens and wildflower plantings for pollinator conservation in both urban and rural settings. Collaborative work is being planned with the British Beekeepers Association to develop a public interface to allow access to the database by the general public.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.agriland.leeds.ac.uk/
 
Description Our publication in Nature has been awarded a prize by the RSPB as the best contribution to conservation science in 2016. Project data continue to be used by researchers, policy makers and managers in designing and evaluating land-management schemes, especially in agricultural settings. Most recently this has involved use by both tNatural England and the National Trust in exploratory "Payment for Ecosystem Services" trials.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description National Pollinator Strategy
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
Impact Publication of National Pollinator Strategy, with a substantial list of actions to be implemented.
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/370199/pb14221-national-po...
 
Description Reviewing IPBES reports
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Amount Bs.F.100,000 (VEF)
Funding ID OPP1212006 Broad-scale agricultural pest monitoring in Africa using dual-polarization weather radar 
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 06/2019 
End 12/2020
 
Description National Pollinator and Pollination Monitoring Programme
Amount £95,928 (GBP)
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 01/2016
 
Description Pollinator Monitoring Research Pattnership
Amount £209,881 (GBP)
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 05/2019
 
Description VOICES: Valuing Orchard and Integrated Crop Ecosystem Services'
Amount £712,518 (GBP)
Funding ID BB/P023274/1 
Organisation Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2017 
End 11/2020
 
Title Site selection protocol 
Description We developed a method of site selection to allow focal sites to be chosen in a manner that makes them statistically representative of Britain as a whole, while allowing contrasts in (in this case) 4 focal variables to be explored at multiple spatial scales. The stratification was then tested using field collected data -- and was found to work well. The method is being written up for publication. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Similar forms of stratification may be employed in the National Pollinator and Pollination Monitoring Programme, currently under development for Defra. 
 
Title Floral nectar database 
Description We have compiled a dataset of nectar production for 176 British plant species, chosen to represent the commonest animal pollinated species as measured in the CEH Countryside Survey. Nectar production has been assessed per flower, per inflorescence, and per unit vegetative cover. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Portions of the database has already been accessed by several other research groups and NGOs. We plan to apply for funding to set up a public web-interface to ease access to the data. 
 
Title IPI Specimen archive 
Description Specimen collection: bees and hoverflies captured during our field campaign. These will be curated by the Natural History Museum and made available as a resource for future researchers. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact None yet. Material transfer agreement has been signed. 
 
Title Pollinator density assays 
Description Field surveys of wild pollinator populations in 96 landscapes across Britain, plus an additional 24 sites with good historic pollinator samples. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Data are being used in the design and power-testing of a proposed National Pollinator and Pollination Monitoring scheme. 
 
Description BES Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk was part of a special session on insect pollination research and sparked questions and discussion afterwards, including a seperate "speed science" interaction session, where small groups discussed the implications of the research presented for pollinators and policy.

Following the talk, several academics expressed an interest in learning more about the methods and the forthcoming results.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description BES SFE Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Questions and discussion afterwards

Nectar database asked for sharing
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Cafe Scientifique talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk, followed by discussion

informed discussions afterwards
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Central Association of Bee Keepers (CABK) AGM 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Invited speaker at the annual general meeting of the Central Association of Beekeepers, London UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Chelsea Flower Show 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Contribution to RHS Environment Exhibit on Ecosystem services Invited exhibition on the role of gardens in ecosystem service provision, involving hydrologists and ecosystem scientists as well as pollination researchers. My role has been to develop the pollination services theme, building upon outcomes of this project (and other related research) Website, leaflets for distribution

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Conference Presentation INTECOL London 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact There was a press release associated with my talk that led to requests for interviews by the media including ITV London news and BBC radio Berkshire. The talk itself led to an interesting discussions that were carried on after the session was completed.

The talk abstract and subsequent press release gained media attention. This led to an interview by ITV London news and a live phone-in interview on BBC radio Berkshire in August 2013.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://eventmobi.com/intecol2013/
 
Description Friends of the Earth teleconference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Teleconference between FoE organisers and a core group of pollinator researchers to discuss current findings concerning the impact of the EU restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticide use.

My most important impact was to stress the importance of information on how the restrictions have influenced use of other agrichemicals, and the unknown net impact on pollinators.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description ICCB 2015 conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Over a 100 audience members were present for this presentation and this lead to sparking further research ideas and collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description INTECOL Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards concerning implications for future policy and channels to disseminate results.

None
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description LWEC panel assesing terrestrial biodiversity Report Card 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Minor revisions to the draft text of the report.

unknown
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Linking Historic Land-Use Change to Pollinator Communities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk at Royal Entomological Society Annual Conference Talk slides

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Meetings with POST 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact Meetings with Rory O'Connor of the Parliamentary office of Science & Technology to discuss issues relating to an upcoming POSTNote on pollination, Interviews by Rory O'Connor concerning pollination and pollinators. POSTNote

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description NELMS planning meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact progress towards the development of new farm wildlife package for agri-environmental management, designed in part to enhance pollinator populations.

Continuing discussions, which should feed into policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description National pollinator strategy workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Helped inform draft National Pollinator Strategy.

Discussions with Charles Godfray afterwards helped flesh out options for a National Pollinator Monitoring programme.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Oxford "Real Farming" Conference presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and subsequent discussion.

I expect that the talk may have influenced the FoE decision to include me in subsequent discussions about neonicotinoid pesticides.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation to Pollination workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach international
Primary Audience Participants in your research or patient groups
Results and Impact Workshop in bangalore, India UK-India joint research initiative: pollination workshop None

no actual impacts realised to date
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Stakeholder workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentations of project results, followed by working groups outlining applications to management of arable agriculture, grazing lands and conservation areas.

Ongoing discussions with participating policy-makers and NGOs, feeding into future development of a public database of floral resources.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Stakeholder workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This day long workshop involved the presentation of our preliminary results to a range of interested stakeholders including conservation practitioners, policy makers, academics, landowners and beekeepers. Following the presentations, there was stimulating discussion in some break out sessions in which delegates from a range of backgrounds discussed their view of the implications of our research, and highlighted optimum channels and formats for results dissemination

At the end of the workshop, several delegates expressed interest in further information and updates, in data to assist in related activities and encouraged expedient dissemination of the results for the purposes of policy influence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.agriland.leeds.ac.uk/news/index.php
 
Description Talk at AgriLand project stakeholder workshop, FERA, York, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on Threats to UK Insect Pollinators: Challenges for Research


n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk at AgriLand project stakeholder workshop, FERA, York, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk describing the impact of historic land-use change on insect pollinator communities

Requests for further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014