Safeguarding pollinators and their values to human well-being

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Wild and managed pollinators provide a wide range of benefits to society in terms of contributions to food security, farmer and beekeeper livelihoods, social and cultural values, as well as the maintenance of wider biodiversity and ecosystem stability. Pollinators face numerous threats, including changes in land-use and management intensity, climate change, pesticides and genetically modified crops, pollinator management and pathogens, and invasive alien species. There are well-documented declines in some wild and managed pollinators in several regions of the world. However, many effective policy and management responses can be implemented to safeguard pollinators and sustain pollination services.

At a glance


  1. Pollination service contribution to the crop market output in terms of US$ per hectare of added production.
    Figure 1: Pollination service contribution to the crop market output in terms of US$ per hectare of added production.

    Benefits are given for the year 2000 and have been corrected for inflation (to the year 2009) and for purchasing power parities. Plotted on a 5° by 5° latitude–longitude grid. Figure is adapted from ref. 4.

  2. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status of wild pollinator taxa.
    Figure 2: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status of wild pollinator taxa.

    a, Standardised IUCN extinction risk categories. b, European bees and butterflies. c, Vertebrate pollinators (including mammals and birds) across IUCN regions. IUCN relative risk categories: EX, extinct; EW, extinct in the wild; CR, critically endangered; EN, endangered; VU, vulnerable; NT, near threatened; LC, least concern; DD, data deficient; NE, not evaluated. Figure adapted from ref. 5.

  3. Annual growth rate (percentage per year) in the number of honeybee hives for countries reporting data to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) between 1961 and 2012.
    Figure 3: Annual growth rate (percentage per year) in the number of honeybee hives for countries reporting data to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) between 1961 and 2012.

    Data values are displayed at the country level; however, the distribution of honeybee hives is spatially heterogeneous within countries. Figure is based on data from the FAO (, 2013).

  4. Agriculture dependence on pollinators in 1961 and 2012.
    Figure 4: Agriculture dependence on pollinators in 1961 and 2012.

    Figure is based on the FAO data set ( and following the methodology of ref. 8. Data values are estimated at the country level; however the distribution of agricultural land, different crops and, thus, values of pollinator dependence are spatially heterogeneous within countries.

  5. Drivers, risks and responses to pollinator decline.
    Figure 5: Drivers, risks and responses to pollinator decline.

    Drivers of pollinator decline (central boxes) relate to the key risks associated with pollinator decline (right boxes), and how these drivers are addressed by three important sets of responses (left boxes) that ultimately reduce the risks. Responses combine elements of human facilities, knowledge, infrastructure and technology (‘anthropogenic assets’) with institutions and governance5. Arrows are thick if there is clear evidence that at least one of the responses can reduce the impact of the driver on pollinators, or clear evidence that the driver generates the impact underlying the risk, at least in some circumstances. Arrows are thin if the link between response and driver, or driver and risk, is suspected or inferred by current evidence, but direct empirical evidence of it taking place is either sparse or lacking. This list of responses to pollinator decline is not exhaustive. There are 74 responses listed in ref. 5. Many responses also represent opportunities to improve livelihoods and environments directly. GMOs, genetically modified organisms.


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Author information


  1. Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AR, UK

    • Simon G. Potts &
    • Thomas D. Breeze
  2. Ecology Department, Biosciences Institute, S. Paulo University, 05508-090 S. Paulo Brazil and Vale Institute of Technology Sustainable Development, Belém 66055-090, Brazil

    • Vera Imperatriz-Fonseca
  3. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), IPBES Secretariat, UN Campus, Platz der Vereinten Nationen 1, Bonn D-53113, Germany

    • Hien T. Ngo
  4. Laboratorio Ecotono, INIBIOMA-CONICET and Centro Regional Bariloche, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Quintral 1250, 8400 San Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina

    • Marcelo A. Aizen
  5. Naturalis Biodiversity Center, PO Box 9517, Leiden 2300 RA, The Netherlands.

    • Jacobus C. Biesmeijer
  6. Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam P.O. Box 94248, The Netherlands

    • Jacobus C. Biesmeijer
  7. School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TL, UK

    • Lynn V. Dicks
  8. Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD), Sede Andina, Universidad Nacional de Río Negro (UNRN), and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Mitre 630, CP 8400, San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro, Argentina

    • Lucas A. Garibaldi
  9. CSIRO Land and Water and James Cook University Division of Tropical Environments and Societies, Box 12139, Earlville BC, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia

    • Rosemary Hill
  10. Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research—UFZ, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Strasse 4, 06210 Halle, Germany

    • Josef Settele
  11. iDiv, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Deutscher Platz 5e, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

    • Josef Settele
  12. NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Edinburgh EH26 0QB, UK

    • Adam J. Vanbergen


All authors contributed equally to the planning, evaluation of the literature and writing of the manuscript.

Competing financial interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Reviewer Information Nature thanks R. Gill, R. Paxton and N. Raine for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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  1. Report this comment #69331

    Simon Potts said:

    The authors of the review paper Potts et al. (2016) would like to fully recognise the major collective contribution of the expert group to the IPBES thematic assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production (IPBES 2016a), which underpinned the Summary for Policymakers (IPBES 2016b), providing the basis for this review paper. The experts, their roles and affiliations were:

    Chapter 1:

    • Peter Kevan, Coordinating Lead Author, Canadian Pollination Initiative Strategic Network (NSERC-CANPOLIN), Canada
    • Connal Eardley, Coordinating Lead Author, Agricultural Research Council (ARC), South Africa
    • Romina Rader, Coordinating Lead Author, University of New England, Australia
    • Breno M. Freitas, Coordinating Lead Author, Universidade Federal do Ceará, Brazil
    • Lok Man Singh Palni, Lead Author, Graphic Era University, India
    • Carlos H. Vergara, Lead Author, Universidad de las Américas Puebla, Mexico
    • Mary Gikungu, Lead Author, National Museums of Kenya, Kenya
    • Alexandra M. Klein, Lead Author, University of Freiburg, Germany
    • Christian Maus, Lead Author, Bayer Crop Science AG, Germany
    • Virginia Meléndez Ramírez, Lead Author, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, México
    • Sigit Wiantoro, Lead Author, Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Indonesia
    • Uma Partap, Review editor, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Nepal
    • Ljubi?a Stanisavljevi?, Review editor, University of Belgrade, Serbia

    Chapter 2:

    • Anikó Kovács-Hostyánszki, Coordinating Lead Author, MTA ÖK Lendület Ecosystem Services Research Group, Hungary
    • Jilian Li, Coordinating Lead Author, Institute of Apicultural Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, China
    • Jeffery S. Pettis, Coordinating Lead Author, University of Bern (formerly Bee Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, USA), Switzerland
    • Josef Settele, Coordinating Lead Author, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany
    • Rémy Vandame, Lead Author, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Mexico
    • Thomas Aneni, Lead Author, Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, Nigeria
    • Hajnalka Szentgyörgyi, Lead Author, University of Agriculture in Kraków, Poland
    • Anahí Espíndola, Lead Author, University of Idaho, USA
    • Helen Thompson, Lead Author, Syngenta, UK
    • Adam Vanbergen, Lead Author, NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK
    • Sih Kahono, Lead Author, The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Indonesia
    • Kong Luen Heong, Review editor, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
    • Nigel Raine, Review editor, University of Guelph, Canada
    • Claire Kremen, Review editor, University of California, Berkeley, USA

    Chapter 3:

    • Marcelo A. Aizen, Coordinating Lead Author, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Argentina
    • Jacobus C. Biesmeijer, Coordinating Lead Author, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, the Netherlands
    • Dino J. Martins, Coordinating Lead Author, Nature Kenya, Kenya
    • Koichi Goka, Lead Author, National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan
    • David Inouye, Lead Author, University of Maryland, USA
    • Chuleui Jung, Lead Author, Andong National University, Republic of Korea
    • Robert Paxton, Lead Author, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
    • Rodrigo Medel, Lead Author, University of Chile, Chile
    • Colleen Seymour, Lead Author, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South Africa
    • Anton Pauw, Lead Author, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
    • Víctor Parra-Tabla, Review editor, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatan, Mexico
    • Jordi Bosch, Review editor, Centre de Recerca Ecològica i Aplicacions Forestals (CREAF), Spain

    Chapter 4:

    • Nicolas Gallai, Coordinating Lead Author, UMR LEREPS, Ecole National Supérieure de Formation à l?Enseignement Agricole (ENSFEA), France
    • Xiushan Li, Coordinating Lead Author, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Science, China
    • Lucas Alejandro Garibaldi, Coordinating Lead Author, Instituto de Investigaciones en Recursos Naturales, Agroecología y Desarrollo Rural (IRNAD), Sede Andina, Universidad Nacional de Río Negro (UNRN), Argentina
    • Jean-Michel Salles, Lead Author, CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), UMR LAMETA, Montpellier, France
    • Harpinder Sandhu, Lead Author, Flinders University, Australia
    • Ruan Veldtman, Lead Author, South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), South Africa
    • Tom Breeze, Lead Author, University of Reading, UK
    • Mário Espirito Santo, Lead Author, Universidade Estadual de Montes Claros, Brazil
    • Ensermu Kelbessa Worati, Lead Author, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
    • Jaime Ivan Rodriguez Fernandez, Lead Author, Colección Boliviana de Fauna, Bolivia
    • Taylor Ricketts, Review editor, University of Vermont, USA
    • Walter Alberto Pengue, Review editor, Universidad Nacional de General Sarmiento, Argentina
    • Ian J. Bateman, Review editor, University of Exeter, UK

    Chapter 5:

    • Rosemary Hill, Coordinating Lead Author, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia
    • Guiomar Nates-Parra, Coordinating Lead Author, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia
    • Peter Kofi Kwapong, Coordinating Lead Author, University of Cape Coast, Ghana
    • Gretchen Le Buhn, Lead Author, San Francisco State University, USA
    • Sara Jo Breslow, Lead Author, University of Washington, USA
    • José Javier Quezada-Euan, Lead Author, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mexico
    • Márcia Motta Maués, Lead Author, Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Emprapa), Eastern Amazon, Brazil
    • Shafqat Saeed, Lead Author, Muhammad Nawaz Shareef University of Agriculture, Pakistan
    • Brad Howlett, Lead Author, New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, New Zealand
    • Damayanti Buchori, Lead Author, Bogor Agricultural University, Indonesia
    • Robert Kajobe, Review editor, National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), Uganda
    • Berta Martín-López, Review editor, Leuphana Universität (Leuphana University), Germany

    Chapter 6:

    • Blandina Felipe Viana, Coordinating Lead Author, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil
    • Lynn Dicks, Coordinating Lead Author, University of East Anglia (previously University of Cambridge), UK
    • Maria Del Coro Arizmendi, Lead Author, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico
    • Riccardo Bommarco, Lead Author, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
    • Berry Brosi, Lead Author, Emory University, USA
    • Ariadna Lopes, Lead Author, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil
    • Saul Cunningham, Lead Author, Australian National University (previously CSIRO), Australia
    • Leonardo Galetto, Lead Author, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and CONICET, Argentina
    • Hisatomo Taki, Lead Author, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, Japan
    • Kaja Peterson, Review editor, Stockholm Environment Institute Tallinn Centre, Estonia
    • Kamaljit Bawa, Review editor, University of Massachusetts, USA
    • Nigel Raine, Review editor, University of Guelph, Canada


    • Vera Lúcia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Co-Chair, University of São Paulo, Brazil
    • Simon Geoffrey Potts, Co-Chair, University of Reading, UK

    Members of the Bureau and Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) having guided the production of this report:

    • Alfred Apau Oteng Yeboah, Bureau member, University of Ghana, Ghana
    • Ivar Andreas Baste, Bureau member, Norwegian Environment Agency, Norway
    • Carlos Alfredo Joly, MEP member, The State University of Campinas, Brazil
    • Ann Bartuska, MEP member, United States Department of Agriculture, USA
    • Rodrigo Antonio Medellín Legorreta, MEP member, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Mexico

    Resource people:

    • Nadine Azzu, Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO)
    • Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO)

    Technical Support Unit:

    • Hien T. Ngo, IPBES Secretariat


    • IPBES (2016a). The assessment report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on pollinators, pollination and food production. S.G. Potts, V. L. Imperatriz-Fonseca, and H. T. Ngo, (eds). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn, Germany
    • IPBES (2016b) Summary for policymakers of the assessment report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services on pollinators, pollination and food production. S.G. Potts, V. L. Imperatriz-Fonseca, H. T. Ngo, J. C. Biesmeijer, T. D. Breeze, L. V. Dicks, L. A. Garibaldi, R. Hill, J. Settele, A. J. Vanbergen, M. A. Aizen, S. A. Cunningham, C. Eardley, B. M. Freitas, N. Gallai, P.G. Kevan, A. Kovács-Hostyánszki, P.K. Kwapong, J. Li, X. Li., D.J. Martins, G. Nates-Parra, J.S. Pettis, R. Rader, and B. F. Viana (eds.). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn, Germany
    • Potts S.G., Imperatriz-Fonseca V., Ngo H.T., Aizen M.A., Biesmeijer J.C., Breeze T.D., Dicks L.V., Garibaldi L.A., Hill R., Settele J., Vanbergen A.J. (2016) Safeguarding pollinators and their values to human well-being. Nature 540: 220?229. doi:10.1038/nature20588

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