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.
Here’s the link to the Defra press release.
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:
Why insects are declining globally, and why it matters.
Dave Goulson is trying to crowdfund a project to look at pesticides in plants from garden centres.
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.
As regular readers of the blog will be aware, over the past three years my research group has been involved as a lead partner in the Nene Valley Nature Improvement Area (NIA) project, one of 12 NIA schemes across England. I’ve posted regular updates on the the Nene Valley NIA, for example see my posts entitled Angry Birds! (and startled bees), To Dream a River, and Biodiversity conservation pays its way.
Although our group still has work to do on writing up the results for our ecosystem services assessment of the Nene Valley, the NIA scheme has formally ended, and today Defra has issued a final NIA Monitoring and Evaluation Report, plus an accompanying press release. Defra (and the government) judges the NIA scheme to be a resounding success and I have to agree with them. To quote from the press release and from the final report:
- Nearly 20,000 hectares of natural habitat – the equivalent of almost 23,000 football pitches – has been created, restored or preserved across England.
- The Nature Improvement Areas have also helped people reconnect with nature, with volunteers contributing over 47,000 days, school children earning their green fingers by planting trees, and communities getting involved in decision making.
- The NIA partnerships mobilised resources with an equivalent value of £26.2 million (including the financial value of volunteer time and services in-kind) in addition to the initial government grant funding. Of this total, £15.3 million was from non-public sources (e.g. private sector and nongovernmental organisations).
- Learnings from the Nature Improvement Areas will now help to inform Defra’s 25 year plan for action on the environment which will be published later in the year as part of a comprehensive, long-term vision to protect the country’s natural heritage.
This last point is a critical one; much was achieved with the government’s initial investment of £7.5 million over three years. Continuation of this type of funding, for the original 12 NIAs and additional projects, would achieve so much more, especially if it was tied in with upland and river restoration projects that focused on natural flood defences (which we know will work). The potential savings from such investment could run into 100s of millions of pounds. Let’s hope Defra has the strategic vision to make this happen.
Next week has been designated Pollinator Awareness Week (PAW) by Defra and there are events and profile-raising activities going on all over the country.
The motivation behind the PAW is (quote) “to bring attention to the essential needs of pollinators and the simple actions that we can all take to help pollinators survive and thrive”.
With that in mind, next week I intend to produce one blog post a day that highlights, with photographs, a pollinator (or group of pollinators) that I’ve found in my own urban garden in Northampton. The purpose is to illustrate the diversity of pollinators that even a town garden can support, something about their fascinating life histories, and the different ecological requirements of these pollinators that our gardens can provide. For some of them I’ll even discuss the garden crops that they pollinate. First post will be on Monday.
If you, or the group you work with, are doing something for Pollinator Awareness Week feel free to share it in the comments section below.