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How much flower-rich habitat is enough for wild pollinators? Answering a key policy question with incomplete knowledge

Ecological Entomology


In 2013, an opportunity arose in England to develop an agri-environment package for wild pollinators, as part of the new Countryside Stewardship scheme launched in 2015. It can be understood as a policy window', a rare and time-limited opportunity to change policy, supported by a narrative about pollinator decline and widely supported mitigating actions. An agri-environment package is a bundle of management options that together supply sufficient resources to support a target group of species. This paper documents information that was available at the time to develop such a package for wild pollinators. Four questions needed answering: (1) Which pollinator species should be targeted? (2) Which resources limit these species in farmland? (3) Which management options provide these resources? (4) What area of each option is needed to support populations of the target species? Focussing on wild bees, we provide tentative answers that were used to inform development of the package. There is strong evidence that floral resources can limit wild bee populations, and several sources of evidence identify a set of agri-environment options that provide flowers and other resources for pollinators. The final question could only be answered for floral resources, with a wide range of uncertainty. We show that the areas of some floral resource options in the basic Wild Pollinator and Farmland Wildlife Package (2% flower-rich habitat and 1 km flowering hedgerow), are sufficient to supply a set of six common pollinator species with enough pollen to feed their larvae at lowest estimates, using minimum values for estimated parameters where a range was available. We identify key sources of uncertainty, and stress the importance of keeping the Package flexible, so it can be revised as new evidence emerges about how to achieve the policy aim of supporting pollinators on farmland.

Author(s): Dicks, LV; Baude, M; Roberts, SPM; Phillips, J; Green, M; Carvell, C

Journal: Ecological Entomology

Year: 2015