Pollinators easily enhanced by flowering agri-environment schemes

Jun 10, 2013
This is an early mining bee, Andrena haemorrhoa, pollinating an apple blossom. Credit: David Kleijn.

Agri-environment schemes aimed to promote biodiversity on farmland have positive effects on wild bees, hoverflies and butterflies. Effects on diversity and abundance were strongest when agri-environment schemes prescribed sowing wild-flowers, the more flowering species the better. Organic farms, set-aside land or fields receiving reduced amounts of fertilizer and pesticides generally hosted more wild pollinators than conventionally farmed land. Jeroen Scheper of Alterra Research Institute and colleagues demonstrated this by analysing the results of 71 studies that had looked at the effects of implementing agri-environment schemes in various European countries.

'There has been a lot of debate about the effectiveness of agri-environment schemes so the results were a bit of a surprise' said co-author David Kleijn. 'We don't know whether the results indicate that agri-environment schemes boost pollinator populations or that they temporarily attract pollinators from surrounding areas. Positive effects were restricted to very common species. However, recently there has been a lot of concern that the decline of pollinators might result in pollination limitation of insect-pollinated crops. Wild bees are excellent pollinators and common species do just the trick. All you have to do to enhance the wild pollinators of crops on farmland is increase flower abundance in field margins roadsides or crop edges.'

The examined agri-environment schemes seem less effective in enhancing endangered pollinator species. Endangered species were rarely observed during the field studies. 'Most of the studies used for the analyses were carried out in North-western Europe where farming is relatively intensive. In these areas endangered species are restricted to semi- and . Also, endangered often specialize on flowers that cannot easily be established on farmland, such as heather or bilberry. The conservation of Red data book pollinators seems to require a separate conservation strategy'.

On farmland, wild flowers attract and enhance pollinators which may benefit crop pollination. Credit: David Kleijn.

Rachael Winfree, a leading pollination scientist from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA comments 'This is an interesting, timely and comprehensive study that tests several ecological hypotheses to answer an important question: Where and how should we restore on agricultural lands? Given the global interest in pollinator declines, and the considerable government funding going into pollinator restorations in the USA and EU, this work will have important policy implications."

Explore further: Dolphins are attracted to magnets

More information: Scheper, J., Holzschuh, A., Kuussaari, M., Potts, S.G., Rundlöf, M., Smith, H.G. & Kleijn, D. (2013) Environmental factors driving the effectiveness of European agri-environmental measures in mitigating pollinator loss – a meta-analysis. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/ele.12128

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Wildlife losses now stabilising

May 23, 2013

Efforts to conserve biodiversity in the UK, Belgium and Netherlands may be working, despite the widespread perception that wildlife is in terminal decline, a new study suggests.

Loss of wild insects hurts crops around the world

Feb 28, 2013

Researchers studying data from 600 fields in 20 countries have found that managed honey bees are not as successful at pollinating crops as wild insects, primarily wild bees, suggesting the continuing loss ...

Recommended for you

World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

3 hours ago

The world's first "interactive microbe zoo" opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday, shining new light on the tiny creatures that make up two-thirds of all living matter and are vital for our planet's future.

Study shows how chimpanzees share skills

4 hours ago

Evidence of new behaviour being adopted and transmitted socially from one individual to another within a wild chimpanzee community is publishing on September 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology. This i ...

Little blue penguin back at sea after hospital stint

9 hours ago

Wildbase Recovery Community Trust ambassador and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie joined Massey University veterinary staff to release a little blue penguin back into the sea at Himatangi Beach this morning.

User comments : 0