The potential consequences of pollinator declines on the conservation of biodiversity and stability of food crop yields

Gordon Allen-Wardell, Peter Bernhardt, Ron Bitner, Alberto Burquez, Stephen Buchmann, James Cane, Paul Allen Cox, Virginia Dalton, Peter Feinsinger, Mrill Ingram, David Inouye, C. Eugene Jones, Kathryn Kennedy, Peter Kevan, Harold Koopowitz, Rodrigo Medellin, Sergio Medellin-Morales, Gary Paul Nabhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

533 Scopus citations

Abstract

Following reports of dramatic declines in managed and feral honey bees from nearly every region of North America, scientists and resource managers from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada came together to review the quality of the evidence that honey bees as well as other pollinators are in long-term decline and to consider the potential consequences of these losses on the conservation of biodiversity and the stability of the yield of food crops. These experts in pollination ecology confirmed that the last 5 years of losses of honeybee colonies in North America leave us with fewer managed pollinators than at any time in the last 50 years and that the management and protection of wild pollinators is an issue of paramount importance to our food supply system. Although there are conclusive data that indicate 1200 wild vertebrate pollinators may be at risk, data on the status of most invertebrate species that act as pollination agents is lacking. The recommendations from a working group of over 20 field scientists, presented here, have been endorsed by 14 conservation and sustainable agriculture organizations, research institutes, and professional societies, including the Society for Conservation Biology. Among the most critical priorities for future research and conservation of pollinator species are (1) increased attention to invertebrate systematics, monitoring, and reintroduction as part of critical habitat management and restoration plans; (2) multi-year assessments of the lethal and sublethal effects of pesticides, herbicides, and habitat fragmentation on wild pollinator populations in and near croplands; (3) inclusion of the monitoring of seed and fruit set and floral visitation rates in endangered plant management and recovery plans; (4) inclusion of habitat needs for critically-important pollinators in the critical habitat designations for endangered plans; (5) identification and protection of floral reserves near roost sites along the 'nectar corridors' of threatened migratory pollinators; and (6) investment in the restoration and management of a diversity of pollinators and their habitats adjacent to croplands in order to stabilize or improve crop yields. The work group encourages increased education and training to ensure that both the lay public and resource managers understand that pollination is one of the most important ecological services provided to agriculture through the responsible management and protection of wildland habitats and their populations of pollen-vectoring animals and nectar-producing plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-17
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Biology
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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    Allen-Wardell, G., Bernhardt, P., Bitner, R., Burquez, A., Buchmann, S., Cane, J., Cox, P. A., Dalton, V., Feinsinger, P., Ingram, M., Inouye, D., Jones, C. E., Kennedy, K., Kevan, P., Koopowitz, H., Medellin, R., Medellin-Morales, S., & Nabhan, G. P. (1998). The potential consequences of pollinator declines on the conservation of biodiversity and stability of food crop yields. Conservation Biology, 12(1), 8-17. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-1739.1998.97154.x