Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production: IPBES gains momentum

Bee on apple blossom - 1st May 2015

The over-arching themes of this blog have been about understanding biodiversity; the science behind its study; why it’s important; how it contributes to human well being, (including both intangible and economic benefits); and how policy informed by science can support the conservation of species and ecosystems.  These are all issues that have a global perspective beyond the bounds of my home country (the United Kingdom), or even my continent (Europe) because species, ecosystems and the threats to them do not respect political borders.

Enter IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (sometimes shortened to Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).

IPBES is a United Nations body established in 2012 that in many ways is a parallel entity to the IPCC ( Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), bringing together scientists, policy makers and stakeholders, with a mission:

to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development

Which has got to be a good thing: science informing policy, what’s not to like?

The first output from IPBES will be a Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, and it’s just been discussed (today) at the 4th Plenary meeting of IPBES in Kuala Lumpur – here’s a link to the press release.

In the coming weeks I’ll talk more about IPBES and its Thematic Assessment (for which I acted as a reviewer), but for now I’ll just repeat some of the headline figures from the report:

  • 20,000 – Number of species of wild bees. There are also some species of butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other vertebrates that contribute to pollination.
  • 75% – Percentage of the world’s food crops that depend at least in part on pollination.
  • US$235 billion–US$577 billion – Annual value of global crops directly affected by pollinators.
  • 300% — Increase in volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination in the past 50 years.
  • Almost 90% — Percentage of wild flowering plants that depend to some extent on animal pollination*.
  • 1.6 million tonnes – Annual honey production from the western honeybee.
  • 16.5% — Percentage of vertebrate pollinators threatened with extinction globally.
  • +40% – Percentage of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – facing extinction.


*They are quoting a figure that I calculated, and very proud of it I am too 🙂


Filed under Bees, Biodiversity, Birds, Butterflies, Ecosystem services, Honey bees, Hoverflies, IPBES, Pollination, Wasps

12 responses to “Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production: IPBES gains momentum

  1. Good to see the handy figures (if some scary ones) Jeff.Did you catch the ONS recent experimental ‘National Farmland Ecosystem Accounts’? These would I hope, incorporate your figs, but I’m a little bit concerned about treating wildlife as ‘ecosystem services’, because that naturally leads to planners, economists, and politicians, deciding what we can do without, when there is really no way of predicting, and species and habitats have just as much right to exist as we do.‎http://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/bulletins/uknaturalcapital/ecosystemaccountsforfarmlandexperimentalstatisticsCheers,Steve(Interested to hear more about your Orobanche work, by the way. As I was wondering if there are ways that insects might spread both host and parasite together.) From: Jeff Ollertons Biodiversity BlogSent: Friday, 26 February 2016 16:08To: steve.a.hawkins@ntlworld.comReply To: Jeff Ollerton’s Biodiversity BlogSubject: [New post] Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production: IPBES gains momentum

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    jeffollerton posted: ”

    The over-arching themes of this blog have been about understanding biodiversity; the science behind its study; why it’s important; how it contributes to human well being, (including both intangible and economic benefits); and how policy informed by scie”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Simon Potts

    Thanks Jeff. The IPBES report was underpinned by high quality studies such as yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not related to your post, but I came across this article today arguing that we should bring back DDT against mosquitoes: http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/76783757/zika–is-it-time-to-bring-back-ddt

    Not being a scientist myself, I’m unsure what to make of the points raised. Is it true that DDT was only so bad for wildlife because it was misused and oversprayed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Emily, interesting link. The writer paints a very black and white view of DDT which is not reflected by the science, as far as I understand it after doing a bit of reading.

      DDT was banned because it is acutely toxic to a wide range of different organisms, not just the ones that the pesticide is meant to target. Likewise the link with cancers has been proven in some cases, but is equivocal in others.

      The way to prevent malaria, zika, etc., is to develop vaccines, not decimate ecosystems.

      The Wikipedia article on DDT is very good: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT

      Have a look particularly at the “Criticisms of restrictions” section.


      • Thanks Jeff, I found the Wikipedia article helpful. I agree with you that vaccines would be preferable to spraying chemicals like DDT which kill all sorts of beneficial creatures as well as mosquitoes.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Claus Rasmussen

    Just to be sure, the actual Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production for which the IPBES press release is about, is not yet made public?


    • Yes, that’s correct. The “Summary for Policymakers” has been circulated on some of the email discussion groups, but the full report will be a little later this year, though I’ve not seen a date mentioned.


  5. Pingback: Release today of the IPBES Summary for Policymakers of the Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

  6. Pingback: Recent developments in pollinator conservation: IPBES, 10 Policies, pesticide conspiracies, and more | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

  7. Pingback: Is there really a “battle for the soul of biodiversity” going on at IPBES? | Jeff Ollerton's Biodiversity Blog

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