Scientists estimate that 35 per cent of global crop production and more than 85 per cent of wild flowering plants rely on pollination by insects to some degree.
So falling numbers of many of the key species have prompted recent concern among researchers and policy makers.
Perhaps best known from media reports has been the decline in the numbers of bees, but this is far from the only example. Uncovering and understanding the causes of the problem has become a high priority for researchers.
APEM biologist, Damien Hicks, said: “With such a broad spectrum of taxonomic groups to be identified, the study of plant-pollinator networks can be daunting to say the least.
“In the UK around 1,500 plant species, over 250 bee species, a similar number of hoverfly species, and thousands of other Diptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera and Lepidoptera have been observed to be part of the pollination system.
“Populations of several of these have undergone significant declines in recent years. The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, for example, has suffered an estimated 89 per cent drop in numbers since the 1990s.”
Scientists at APEM were asked to arrange the workshop because of our good relationship with the Field Studies Council, because of their experience in species identification and because few other companies currently provide tutoring in identifying the relevant plants and pollinators.
Dr Kevin Jones of APEM’s freshwater laboratories, who previously organised similar training for the Environment Agency, said: “There is a clear need for us to construct a robust biological evidence base that the regulatory agencies, planners and developers can use to chart best practice. As ecological surveyors and analysts this is what we thrive on.
“We are currently carrying out such practical restoration and sustainable urban drainage works for pollination services in Wiltshire, and are keen to discuss and undertake the key design features and monitoring for the range of development works across the UK.”
Attendees at the workshop included one member of staff and one volunteer from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, two PhD students, one survey consultant and an MSc student, among others.
The course covered insect anatomy, taxonomic identification, network theory and the insect orders that dominate pollination services – Diptera, Hymenoptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera and Lepidoptera.
Additional fieldwork on the day observed the first migrant wave of pollen beetles (Brassicogethes aeneus), several solitary bees (Andrena sp.) in the blonde sandstone walls of the zoo together with its kleptoparasite bee (Nomada sp).
Kevin Jones commented: “We were bowled over by the capability and enthusiasm of the workshop attendees and the venue was second to none.”
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