Bombus dahlbomii   Credit: Eduardo Zattara

Bombus dahlbomii, the world’s largest species of bumblebee, which is under threat     Picture: Eduardo Zattara

Scientists at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology are working with researchers in Latin America on a high-tech project to support insect pollinators in the region.

Declines in pollinators across the world, due to intensive agriculture, habitat loss, climate change and invasive species, are a major concern in Latin America, where losses threaten economically important crops and biodiversity.

However, the impact of the declines in the region remains poorly understood, undermining the capacity to develop policies that are vital to mitigate the losses of pollinators and also support both agricultural production and the health of the wider ecosystems.

The new collaborative project, which is receiving funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), will examine how factors such as land management and invasive species affect pollinator communities. This will improve understanding of the social and economic role of biodiversity in the region and how it can be managed more sustainably.

It will use experiments, satellite imagery and modelling to predict areas that are at high risk of crop failure from inadequate levels of pollination.

This collaborative partnership will significantly advance state-of-the-art knowledge of pollinator and landscape ecology across Latin America - Professor Matthew Heard

This evidence will be used by policymakers and land managers in Latin America to develop long-term plans for sustainably maximising the benefits of pollinating insects for agriculture.

The three-year project is being led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and also involves INBIOMA research institute in Argentina, the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, the Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso in Chile, the University of Northampton and the University of Exeter.

Professor Matthew Heard, an ecologist at CEH, who is leading the research, says: “We are excited to be part of this new collaborative, international partnership. It will significantly advance state-of-the-art knowledge of pollinator and landscape ecology across Latin America, and help inform the management of pollination services for agricultural production and wider ecosystem health.”

Professor Heard’s CEH colleagues Dr Reto SchmuckiDr Ben Woodcock, Dr Daniel Morton, Dr Claire Carvell and Dr Jan Dick are among the other scientists involved in the project, called Safeguarding Pollination Services in a Changing World: theory into practice (SURPASS2). It builds on previous research that identified knowledge gaps in understanding about the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators in Latin America.

Further information

SURPASS2, which is receiving £1.4m via NERC grant NE/S011870/1, is one of four projects that will increase understanding of how biodiversity enables ecosystems to deliver vital services to people, as part of a Latin America biodiversity programme run by NERC. The projects will look, separately, at the management of pollinators, fisheries, forests and invasive species to inform schemes to enable sustainable economic growth across the region.

NERC is running the programme in partnership with four other funders: the Argentine National Scientific & Technical Research Council (CONICET), the Brazilian São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), the Chilean National Commission for Scientific & Technological Research (CONICYT), and the Peruvian National Council for Science, Technology & Technological Innovation (CONCYTEC). Between them, they are investing a total of more than £5 million in the programme.

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