June 10, 2013
Flowering Agri-environment Schemes Easily Enhance Pollinators
Agri-environment schemes aimed to promote biodiversity on farmland have positive effects on wild bees, hoverflies and butterflies. Effects on diversity and abundance were strongest when agri-environment schemes prescribed sowing wild-flowers, the more flowering species the better. Organic farms, set-aside land or fields receiving reduced amounts of fertilizer and pesticides generally hosted more wild pollinators than conventionally farmed land. Jeroen Scheper of Alterra Research Institute and colleagues demonstrated this by analyzing the results of 71 studies that had looked at the effects of implementing agri-environment schemes in various European countries.
The examined agri-environment schemes seem less effective in enhancing endangered pollinator species. Endangered species were rarely observed during the field studies. 'Most of the studies used for the analyses were carried out in North-western Europe where farming is relatively intensive. In these areas endangered species are restricted to semi-natural habitats and nature reserves. Also, endangered bee species often specialize on flowers that cannot easily be established on farmland, such as heather or bilberry. The conservation of Red data book pollinators seems to require a separate conservation strategy'.
Rachael Winfree, a leading pollination scientist from Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA comments 'This is an interesting, timely and comprehensive study that tests several ecological hypotheses to answer an important question: Where and how should we restore pollinators on agricultural lands? Given the global interest in pollinator declines, and the considerable government funding going into pollinator restorations in the USA and EU, this work will have important policy implications."
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