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Highlight September 2013 - Mapping and assessing Europe’s pollination potential


13/09/2013

An article by IES scientists on how pollination services are delivered at the European scale has been published in Land. It finds that the yield of crops that are pollinated by insects, such as bees, could fall by 25-32% if such pollination were no longer available. This finding gives further weight to the argument that biodiversity and ecosystem services are crucial to food security and human welfare, and must be protected.

Insect pollination is necessary for up to 75% of global crops that are used as human food, and 84% of European cultivated crop species. While available data on the subject is limited, it has been found that pollinator diversity and abundance has fallen significantly over the past decades due to habitat loss and agricultural intensification. In order to address this issue, the EU Biodiversity Strategy calls for EU Member States to map, and assess the state and economic value of ecosystems and their services in their national territory by 2014, with a view to integrating these into EU and national accounting and reporting systems by 2020.

Europe’s relative pollination potential – the capacity of land cover to provide crop pollination by short-flight distance pollinators

The published article presents an approach to map and assess the relative contribution of pollination to European agricultural crops. The authors calculated the ‘Relative Pollination Potential’ (RPP) by applying data on European land cover, land use, and climate to an RPP index model (which connects the relative abundance of pollinator species with the production of crops that are dependent on them), and linked this to regional crop production statistics to assess the benefits of wild pollinators and identify landscape areas with a deficit in potential pollination.

RPP is found to be higher in warmers areas with high nesting suitability that offer abundant foraging resources such as nectar-carrying plants and flowers.

The mapping method was found to be useful in assessing large-scale patterns of the availability of pollination services and potential mismatches with the demand of agricultural crops. These maps could be used in EU and national agricultural and biodiversity policies.

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