Protecting an ecosystem service: approaches to understanding and mitigating threats to wild insect pollinators

Bee on apple blossom 2 - 1st May 2015Back in April 2015 I attended a two day meeting at Imperial College’s Silwood Park campus to discuss initial project ideas to address evidence gaps in the recent National Pollinator Strategy.  I mentioned the meeting in passing in a post at the time concerned with whether biodiversity scientists should also be campaigners, but didn’t say a lot about what conclusions we came to and what the next steps would be because at the time I was unclear on both of those counts: it was a very wide ranging meeting with a lot of participants coming at the question of pollinator conservation from different perspectives.  As well as academics there were representatives from the agrochemical industry, government research organisations, and  the National Farmers Union.

During summer 2015 one of the conveners of the meeting, Dr Richard Gillherded cats organised colleagues, pulled together all of the text and ideas that were generated, and took on the task of seeing a summary of the meeting through from initial draft to publication.  It was a monumental effort, involving 27 authors and 86 manuscript pages, and Richard did a sterling job.  Entitled “Protecting an ecosystem service: approaches to understanding and mitigating threats to wild insect pollinators” it will appear as a chapter in the next volume of Advances in Ecological Researchwhich should be published later this month.

The abstract and contents for the chapter are below; if anyone wants a copy of the full chapter, please let me know.


Insect pollination constitutes an ecosystem service of global importance, providing significant economic and aesthetic benefits as well as cultural value to human society, alongside vital ecological processes in terrestrial ecosystems. It is therefore important to understand how insect pollinator populations and communities respond to rapidly changing environments if we are to maintain healthy and effective pollinator services. This paper considers the importance of conserving pollinator diversity to maintain a suite of functional traits to provide a diverse set of pollinator services. We explore how we can better understand and mitigate the factors that threaten insect pollinator richness, placing our discussion within the context of populations in predominantly agricultural landscapes in addition to urban environments. We highlight a selection of important evidence gaps, with a number of complementary research steps that can be taken to better understand: i) the stability of pollinator communities in different landscapes in order to provide diverse pollinator services; ii) how we can study the drivers of population change to mitigate the effects and support stable sources of pollinator services; and, iii) how we can manage habitats in complex landscapes to support insect pollinators and provide sustainable pollinator services for the
future. We advocate a collaborative effort to gain higher quality abundance data to understand the stability of pollinator populations and predict future trends. In addition, for effective mitigation strategies to be adopted, researchers need to conduct rigorous field- testing of outcomes under different landscape settings, acknowledge the needs of end-users when developing research proposals and consider effective methods of knowledge transfer to ensure effective uptake of actions.

1. Importance of Insect Pollination
1.1 Providing an Ecosystem Service
1.2 Brief Introduction to Pollination Ecology and the Importance of Wild
2. Major Threats to the Pollination Service Provided by Insects
3. Steps in the Right Direction to Protect Insect Pollinator Services: Policy Actions
4. Understanding and Mitigating Specific Threats to Wild Insect Pollinators to Protect Pollinator Services
4.1 Understanding the Stability of Insect Pollinator Communities
4.2 Using Molecular Approaches to Monitor Insect Pollinators
4.3 How Do Parasites Shape Wild Insect Pollinator Populations?
4.4 Understanding Insect Pollinator Population Responses to Resource Availability
4.5 Engineering Flowering Field Margins as Habitats to Attract Insect Pollinators
4.6 How Might We Improve the Wider Countryside to Support Insect Pollinators
4.7 Insect Pollinators in Urban Areas
5. Considerations When Developing Future Research and Mitigation Strategies

22 thoughts on “Protecting an ecosystem service: approaches to understanding and mitigating threats to wild insect pollinators

  1. ScientistSeesSquirrel

    Jeff – this looks like a great contribution, especially given the importance of thinking about wild pollinators and wild pollinator services in light of all the hype over honeybees (which of course you’ve written about elsewhere). So despite my skepticism over “ecosystem services” as a conservation motivation (, I look forward to seeing this!

    1. jeffollerton Post author

      Thanks Steve. You know, I completely missed your post on lupins* and ESs! My only excuse is that it was less than two weeks before our wedding so it’s possible that I was preoccupied 🙂

      I think you raise an excellent point in that post but I’d not throw out the whole ES concept based on that example, though it is an interesting one.

      *In the UK we’d say lupins rather than lupines, and reserve “lupine” to mean “wolf-like”.

      1. ScientistSeesSquirrel

        You are forgive for being preoccupied!

        I agree that a single example shouldn’t sink the ship (to mangle a metaphor), although I think there are plenty more. I really worry about any tie of conservation to ESs, as I don’t see any logical reason why the conservation outcomes I value should map 1:1 to optimal levels of ESs.

        By the way, “lupin” vs. “lupine” drives me nuts. It seems that US usage is “lupine”, and Canada, as usual, is caught halfway between UK and US usage. So I talk about the “colour” of my “windshield” but, for no apparent reason, no the “color” of my “windscreen”! What a language…

  2. Andrew Lucas


    I would definitely be interested in the full chapter. I’m coming into the last year of a PhD on hoverflies as pollinators in Welsh grasslands, and it looks as if this will be required reading!

    My university email is

    Andrew Lucas

  3. Miranda B

    Thank you for this post, I always find your blog fascinating and useful. I’d love a copy of the chapter. I entering the second year of my PhD studying pollinator networks.
    My email is

  4. Lena Dempewolf

    Hi Jeff,

    This looks like an interesting read! I’d love a copy as I’m currently in the process of writing up my PhD on pollination ecosystem services in Trinidad. It looks like this will be very helpful. My email address is



  5. Vidushi

    hi there !

    could you please send me the chapter ?

    Thank you



    PhD student
    University of Western Australia
    WA 6009


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