Safeguarding Pollination Services in a Changing World: theory into practice (SURPASS2)

Lead Research Organisation: NERC CEH (Up to 30.11.2019)
Department Name: Biodiversity (Wallingford)


Insect pollinators have undergone declines across the world, a result of factors including intensive agriculture, habitat loss, climate change and invasive species. This represents a major concern in Latin America (LATAM) where it threatens economically important crops and wider biodiversity. The impact of these losses in LATAM remains poorly understood, undermining the capacity to develop policies vital to mitigate pollinator losses and support both agricultural production and wider ecosystem health. A new, coherent evidence base is required, that considers impacts on individual species, their distributions and populations, the landscapes they persist in and their unique capacities to deliver pollination to different crops. Without this it will not be possible to develop the applied experimental and modelling solutions policy makers need to deliver sustainable farming economies. This proposal builds on Newton Phase 1 project SURPASS, an international collaboration between 37 participants, that identified knowledge gaps, issues, and research areas that prioritise conservation and sustainable use of LATAM pollinators. The SURPASS2 goal is to deliver evidence for the creation of resilient pollination services for sustainable economic growth, improved human health and wellbeing as well as positive environmental and agricultural outcomes. This will be addressed by five main objectives, co-designed with academics and stakeholders that establish interconnected work packages that build capacity to manage pollination services and provide tangible outcomes. Our goals will be delivered through 4 work packages:

WP1) Monitoring populations and understanding their distributions: before any effective solution can be developed to manage LATAM pollinators it is crucial that we understand the current distribution of species and develop and trial approaches for long term monitoring. Only by understanding where pollinators can be found can we develop applied solutions to manage them. We will design a standardised framework to assess the status and trends of pollinator populations through existing and new monitoring schemes, including citizen science.

WP2) How does the environment in which pollinators live affect them, and how does this affect capacity to provide crop pollination: Land use change and land management represent fundamental factors affecting pollinator populations. We will undertake detailed landscape scale experiments across LATAM focusing on production of economically significant crops to understand how landscape management affects pollinators and the pollination services they supply. This will provide data for models and help growers, land managers and policy makers to optimise pollination to sustainably increase crop yields and quality. We will also quantify how invasive species of pollinators impact on wild and native insect pollinators and plants.

WP3) Understanding national scale deficits in pollination for key crops identifying areas where pollination services are at high risk. Using cutting edge satellite imagery we will map nationally the occurrence of key insect pollinated crops. We will link this data to the distribution of insect pollinator communities to assess if these populations provide adequate pollination, as well as modelling how resilient these communities are to species losses. As each species of insect pollinator is unique their loss can have potentially huge consequences for agricultural production.

WP4) Develop a national scale predictive framework to support policy goals of maximising benefits for agricultural productivity provided by pollination. This will integrate results from WP1-3 to model pollinator communities to develop effective strategies for decision making processes for different stakeholders that benefit from insect pollination. This will provide the framework to work with stakeholders to produce a roadmap for maximising pollination services and long term monitoring in LATAM.

Planned Impact

Healthy and resilient ecosystems underpin human well-being and quality of life. Pollinators contribute to plant reproduction in natural and managed ecosystems which supports food security, local and national economies, and provides wider biodiversity and ecosystem benefits (IPBES, Aichi targets, UN SDGs). Data on wild pollinators needed to inform management strategies is a gap for food provisioning and biodiversity relevant to UN SDG 2: Zero Hunger. SURPASS2 will provide tools to configure landscapes for maximal ecosystem service provision and to optimise natural resource based economies. The major output of the project will be managed and wild bee population valuation and decision support tools. SURPASS2 will also foster communications between diverse stakeholders; through the above tools it will empower growers and food supply chains to make more informed land management decisions; and inform policy makers to improve decisions for ecosystem and livelihood resilience. We will identify opportunities to incorporate new knowledge / tools to develop landscape scale management approaches. This will not be a singularly "top-down" approach and we will aim to empower smallholders and help local communities make healthy and sustainable decisions to take action toward their wellbeing and economic development. SURPASS2 will also offer improvements to the future cultural and social recognition of the vital roles that pollinators, and those that work with them, play in sustaining crop production and ecosystem functioning. This will lead to greater public engagement in efforts to conserve pollination services across LATAM regions. We will initiate and exploit opportunities to share research outcomes with the following sectors:

National and regional government departments, policy makers and regulators (e.g. Environment, Agriculture & Science ministries; Agricultural & National Forestry services). Our mechanistic, evidence based predictions of the impacts of landscape management at multiple scales, will support policy decisions and provide guidelines to implement nature-based solutions that maximise ecosystem benefits within both natural and agricultural systems.

Farming communities, land managers & beekeepers (e.g. farmers, farmers associations, amateur, indigenous & commercial beekeepers). We will engage communities to explore how different management practices and landscape configuration/ management and enhance crop yields, hive products and health and improve knowledge of wider ecosystem benefits. This will help foster attitude changes and increase awareness.

Agri-food sector actors (e.g. agrochemical companies, wholesalers, processors, retailers). We will engage with supply chains to highlight the impacts of different practices and attitudes on nature based economies, catalyse the development of shared best practice & encourage responsible market demands.

NGOS/Conservation bodies/Learned Societies (e.g. Pollination & Biodiversity recording networks, bee conservation trusts, ecological societies) will be able to use the project outputs to inform conservation management practices (nationally & internationally) and provide evidence to enhance their broader policy and advocacy work.

General public. The importance of pollinators and their conservation has attracted wide public interest, and received great attention from the international media. Communicating the observed and potential impacts of environmental change based on objective, science based evidence is crucial. A diverse range of public outreach activities events will enable us to directly communicate our project findings and wider information with the general public, both adults and children.


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