Following on from the press release earlier this year announcing of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessment of pollinators, pollination and food production (which I reported on in February) it looks as though the full report may shortly be published. A Summary for Policymakers has just been released by IPBES and can be downloaded by following this link. I’ll put up a link to the full report once it becomes becomes available.
Over at the Standingoutinmyfield blog, the author has posted some “Photos from a hardwood floor“, and contrasted the satisfaction to be derived from a project such as (in this case) laying a new floor in her home (and great it looks too!) with the dissatisfaction that life as a scientist can bring. Don’t get me wrong, I think I have the best job in the world, but I agree with her that there has to be more than science in the life of a scientist.
It’s probably not widely realised amongst non-academics, but failure and rejection are MUCH more common than success and acceptance in our professional lives.
Rejection rates for most journals are greater than 50%, and frequently as high as 80% to 90%; success rates for large grants are typically lower than 20%. In the past seven months I’ve had one grant application and five papers rejected. It can be very disheartening, which is why I have to have more in my life than just science.
Of course there’s the teaching and admin that is a vital part of my job, but, like Standingoutinmyfield, other projects are important. So Karin and I have spent part of the summer refurbishing an old summer house at the back of the garden (on-going) and renovating and planting our front garden (almost done). As the latter project involves plants that are good nectar and pollen sources for pollinators, I thought I’d post some photographs:
The original front wall – built in the late 1980s/early 1990s I think, and not at all in character with the late Victorian house.
The garden itself was paved and concreted over:
Demolition in progress! While I supervise…..:
We salvaged what bricks we could, for other projects, and the rubble was taken to the local recycling centre to be used as hardcore.
It’s amazing where plants will grow:
The site is almost cleared, ready for a local semi-retired bricklayer (with 56 years of experience!) to build us a new wall using similar bricks to those of the house:
And here it is:
The soil in the front garden was very poor, varying from solid clay to builder’s rubble, so needed a lot of peat-free compost and sharp sand to improve it. But finally we were ready to plant it up:
The garden is south facing so we had to choose plants that would do well in a hot, dry summer (not that we have many of those at the moment….). It will take a year or two for them to get established and knit into a full display. The plants are a mixture of pollen- and nectar-sources for pollinators plus things we just like – here’s the full list:
A small scrambling rose Rosa “Warm Welcome” – a beautiful, unusual colour, a very nice scent, and appropriate name for the front garden!
Lavender “Hidcote” – planted as a low hedge along the full length – even as we were putting in the plants, worker Buff-Tailed Bumblebees were visiting the flowers.
Plectranthus argentatus – not hardy here but a lovely foliage plant, fast growing, and with flowers that bees like. I’ll take cuttings in the autumn to keep it going.
Wisteria – this is quite a large plant that was a birthday present for Karin. But I’ve lost the variety name so will have to try to track it down.
A fig – Ficus “Panache” – because we like figs. The roots have been constrained in a sunken container to encourage the plant to produce more fruit and less growth.
A self-sown privet (probably Ligustrum vulgare) that was already in the front garden; we allow it to flower (rather than treating it as a hedge) as the bees love it and the black fruit can be eaten by birds.
Potentilla “Gibson’s Scarlet and “Jean Jabber” – deep red and vivid orange, respectively.
Achillea “Fanal” – also deep red and favoured by hoverflies.
Salvia nemorosa “Caradonna” – beautiful, intense purple.
Curry plant (Helichrysum italicum) because we love the smell and hoverflies love the flowers.
Japanese Anemone x hybrida “Honorine Jobert” – pure white and late flowering.
A perennial sunflower Helianthus “Lemon Queen” – likewise a late flowering hit with the pollinators.
Lamb’s Ear – Stachys byzantina – particularly favoured by the Wool-carder bee Anthidium manicatum.
There will be more to come in the near future. Meanwhile, here’s a before-and-after shot:
In the current political turmoil around the Chilcot Enquiry, Brexit, leadership challenges and a change of Prime Minister you’d be forgiven for having missed the fact that 9th to 17th July 2016 has been designated “Bees’ Knees” week, as a follow on to the Pollinator Awareness Week of 2015.
Unlike last year I’ve no specific plans to do any regular posts on the topic, but I will provide links to relevant items as and when I see them, starting with these two:
An early train to London yesterday got me to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in time for the gates opening at 8am. I’d agreed to spend the day staffing the British Ecological Society’s Animal Attraction: The garden and beyond display, which deals with the relationships between plants and their pollinators – see my recent posts here and here.
The first thing I noticed as I approached the display was how impressive and well designed it looked, with some wonderful planting to complement the simple, bold scientific information. The second thing I noticed was that we had won a Silver Medal! The whole team was very pleased – it’s the third year that the BES has been represented at Chelsea, but the first time that it’s won a medal. I’m proud to have made a small contribution to that by advising on the plants and the scientific content, but the main kudos goes to the BES’s staff and to the garden designer Emily Darby.
Over the course of a long day we talked to hundreds of visitors about the display, what it represented, and the different ways that flowers are adapted to their pollinators. There was a huge amount of public interest and support, very gratifying to see. Here’s some pictures from the day:
Pollinators, as regular readers of this blog will know, are diverse and important, both ecologically and agriculturally. But that diversity is declining and it’s an issue that deserves greater publicity and action.
To that end, for the past eight months I’ve been advising a team from the British Ecological Society (BES) on the content for a display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show which is running all next week. The display is called “Animal Attraction: The Garden and Beyond” – if you follow that link you’ll get a sense of what the display is all about, but in essence there are three key messages that the BES is trying to get across:
- Celebrating the diversity of pollinators (not just bees!) both in the UK and globally.
- Flowers have evolved many different ways of attracting and rewarding pollinators, leading to the fantastic diversity of floral form that gardeners appreciate.
- Planting a diversity of flowers in your garden can only be a good thing for helping conserve pollinator populations.
As you can see from my wristband, I’ll be helping to staff the stand all day Tuesday 24th May, so if you’re at the show come and say hello and take a look at what the BES team has produced.
This morning there were swifts flying above the garden – summer’s [almost] here! As if on cue, the eagerly anticipated report on “Design and Testing of a National Pollinator and Pollination Monitoring Framework“, one of the key recommendations of the National Pollinator Strategy, has been published today by Defra. Here’s a link to the report and its annexes.
I’ve not had time to read the full report, and even the Executive Summary (ES) is quite long and detailed, but the Conclusion to the ES captures the key points (emphases in bold are mine):
“…there is considerable scope to enhance monitoring of pollinators and pollination services to ensure a robust and rigorous evidence-base to support the needs of policy, however this project has demonstrated clear trade-offs between likely cost and data quality, especially in terms of the taxonomic resolution and accuracy of species identifications. Currently the volunteer sector, namely the NSS*, provides the expertise to deliver monitoring of changes in species occurrence or distributions at a national scale for many, but not all, species. Indeed the total value of voluntary work provided by BWARS and HRS….is estimated, based on current levels, to reach in excess of £5M over ten years. Repeated systematic sampling from a stratified network of sites not typically covered by the NSS has the potential to add considerable value, providing data on pollinator abundance that may link with provision of pollination services and filling gaps in the spatial extent and species coverage. Enhancements to improve the range and accuracy of monitoring pollinators and pollination services over large spatial and temporal scales will depend on adequate resources to support capacity building, coordination and implementation.”
In summary, the volunteer schemes are a hugely valuable asset that need to be enhanced by funding from the public purse in order to set up a pollinator and pollinator monitoring scheme that will be fit for purpose. Will the current Government show the necessary vision and leadership to provide that funding? Watch this space….
* NSS = National Recording Schemes and Societies, e.g. Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS), Hoverfly Recording Scheme (HRS), etc.
There is to be a joint meeting of the Royal Entomological Society’s Insect Pollination and Insects & Sustainable Agriculture Special Interest Groups on “Progress in pollination and pollinator research” at the University of Reading, 20th April 2016. Unfortunately I can’t make it (I have meetings at the university all that day and need to get myself organised before heading off to Tenerife for field work on the 22nd) but I thought I’d advertise what looks like a very interesting one day conference.
The programme for the meeting is below and registration is open. Please register before the meeting via The Royal Entomological Society using the form which can be downloaded from the RES website:
The registration fee will be £20 and includes lunch and all refreshments.
Convenors are Mike Garratt (Insect Pollination SIG) and John Holland (Insects & Sustainable Agriculture SIG) so please contact them if you’d like further information.
9.30-9.55 – Registration & Coffee
9.55-10.00 – Welcome
10.00-10.20 – Ecological intensification, pollinator diversity, and crop yield gaps in small- and large-holdings (Lucas Garibaldi, Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural, Argentina)
10.20-10.40 – Welfare impact of pollinator decline on the international trade (Nicola Gallai, Ecole Nationale de Formation Agronomique, France)
10.40-11.00 – Conserving one beneficial at the cost of another; does success in promoting pollinators risk farmers ignoring other beneficial insects? (Mark Ramsden, ADAS)
11.00-11.20 – Coffee break
11.20-11.40 – Quantification of the floral landscape in agro-ecosystems and its effect on bumblebee colonies (Ellen Rotheray, University of Sussex)
11.40-12.00 – How many Bumblebees can our landscapes support? Using bumblebee colony models as a conservation management tool in agricultural landscapes (Grace Twiston-Davies, University of Exeter)
12.00-12.20 – Are current agri-environment schemes providing appropriate resources to the wider farmland bee community? (Thomas Wood, University of Sussex)
12.20-12.25 – Pollination studies in the QuESSA Project (John Holland, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust)
12.25-12.30 – Pollinator initiatives and research at the Royal Horticultural Society (Andrew Salisbury, RHS Garden Wisley)
12.30-12.35 – Collating evidence on plant traits and ecosystem services to inform multifunctional field margin design (Claire Blowers, Harper Adams University)
12.35-12.40 – Rare bee species and agriculture (Steven Falk, Freelance Entomologist)
12.40-12.45 – Fenland ditch banks as pollinator refuges: Environmental variable influence on pollination service measurements (Hilary Conlan, Anglia Ruskin University)
12.45-12.50 – What’s for dinner? Investigating the foraging preferences of honeybees using pollen DNA metabarcoding (Natasha de Vere, National Botanic Garden of Wales)
12.50-13.00 – Questions
13.00-13.45 – Lunch
13.45-13.50 – The National Pollinator and Pollination Monitoring Framework (Claire Carvell, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)
13.50-13.55 – Impacts of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions in agro-ecosystems (Ellen Moss, Newcastle University)
13.55-14.00 – Reproductive resilience through outcrossing: pollen movement by insects is more important when plants are under stress (Jake Bishop, University of Reading)
14.00-14.05 – DNA metabarcoding reveals pollen transport by Eristalis hoverflies in grasslands (Andrew Lucas, National Botanic Garden of Wales)
14.05-14.10 – Raspberry pollination (Anders Nielsen, University of Oslo)
14.10-14.15 – Interaction between pollinators and pesticide use in agricultural crops: An ecological-economical modeling approach in South West France (Giorgos Kleftodimos, University of Toulouse)
14.15-14.20 – Estimating the net economic consequences of losing pollination services: evaluating contributions from single protected areas (Fabrizia Ratto, University of Southampton)
14.20-14.30 – Questions
14.30-14.50 – Insect pollinators: utilisation of resources through space and time in an intensive grassland landscape (Lorna Cole, SRUC)
14.50-15.10 – Insecticides and pollinators – Are they really incompatible? (Lin Field, Rothamsted Research)
15.00-15.20 – Monitoring the effects of chronic, larval exposure to neonicotinoids on the solitary bee Osmia bicornis (Beth Nicholls, University of Sussex)
15.20-15.30 – Discussion and close of meeting
A short while ago I was interviewed by an American journalist as part of a special issue of the online newsletter Leaf Litter devoted to pollinators. Produced by a conservation planning and ecological restoration organisation called Biohabitats, this special issue includes:
» Thoughts on Pollinators
» Expert Q&A: Jeff Ollerton
» Expert Q&A: Jerome Rozen
» Expert Q&A: Eugenie Regan
» Inspiration: Promising Progress With Pollinator Habitat
» Non-Profit Spotlight: The Xerces Society
» Video: An ecological planner walks into a cider mill…
» How Saving Pollinators Can Save Water and Fish Resources
» Biohabitats Projects, Places, and People
The importance of urban environments for supporting pollinator populations is a topic that I’ve covered several times on the blog, for example: “Urban pollinators for urban agriculture” and “Urban bee diversity – a new study“. It’s a subject that’s generating a lot of interest at the moment with some really exciting research being published and conservation practice taking place. However there’s clearly a lot to do if we are really to understand where pollinators are distributed across out townscapes, and how we can best manage urban habitats to support this diversity and increase their numbers – here’s a link to an interesting round table discussion on this very topic.
Recently I was invited to take part in a workshop event co-organised by Defra, NERC, and Dr Kath Baldock from Bristol University entitled: Knowledge Exchange: urban grassland management and creating space for pollinators. As well as doing a short talk which contextualised the current scientific knowledge on urban pollinators, I facilitated one of the breakout discussion sessions.
The workshop was very well attended with some 50 delegates from a wide range of organisations, including local and national authorities, businesses, NGOs, and universities. Feedback from those delegates was generally positive and most people learned something about managing urban settings for pollinators, and made some useful connections. I certainly learned a lot: it’s good to get out of academia sometimes and talk with practitioners.
If you follow this link you’ll find a PDF of the summary from the facilitated sessions, covering topics such as grassland and verge management, the urban edgeland, innovative projects, and green infrastructure.
Over at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s blog, Sam Page has a very nice summary of the whole day which is also worth reading: Trials and tribulations of managing urban grasslands for pollinators.
Many thanks to all of the organisers for their work in putting on this event.
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 🙂