Pollinator decline has attracted global attention and substantial efforts are underway to respond through national pollinator strategies and action plans. These policy responses require clarity on what is driving pollinator decline and what risks it generates for society in different parts of the world. Using a formal expert elicitation process, we evaluated the relative regional and global importance of eight drivers of pollinator decline and ten consequent risks to human well-being. Our results indicate that global policy responses should focus on reducing pressure from changes in land cover and configuration, land management and pesticides, as these were considered very important drivers in most regions. We quantify how the importance of drivers and risks from pollinator decline, differ among regions. For example, losing access to managed pollinators was considered a serious risk only for people in North America, whereas yield instability in pollinator-dependent crops was classed as a serious or high risk in four regions but only a moderate risk in Europe and North America. Overall, perceived risks were substantially higher in the Global South. Despite extensive research on pollinator decline, our analysis reveals considerable scientific uncertainty about what this means for human society.
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We thank the following people who took part in an early scoping of this exercise during writing of the IPBES Pollination Assessment, helping to define the parameters: T. Aneni, B. Brosi, S. Cunningham, M. del Coro Arizmendi, C. Eardley, A. Espindola, M. Espirito Santo, B. Freitas, N. Gallai, K. Goka, D. Inouye, C. Jung, E. Kelbessa, P. Kwapong, X. Li, A. Lopes, D. Martins, C. Maus, G. Nates, R. Paxton, J. Pettis, J. Quezada-Euan, J. Settele, H. Szentgyorgyi, H. Taki, R. Veldtman and S. Wiantoro. We thank S. Barnsley and L. Blackmore, who supported the discussion groups as note-takers during the workshops. We are grateful to T. Balcombe and C. Vidler for planning and organizing the workshop and to J. Huang for support with the figures. We thank the University of Reading’s Building Outstanding Impact Support Programme for supporting S.G.P., T.D.B. and D.S. and the workshop attendees. We would like to warmly thank IPBES for having dedicated its first assessment report to the important issue of pollinators and for having brought an unprecedented level of awareness on their importance and loss worldwide. This paper builds on some of the concepts from the IPBES pollination assessment and was, in many ways, inspired by that assessment. The views expressed here, however, represent the individual views of the authors. L.V.D. is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (grant nos NE/N014472/1 and 2). A.K.-H. was supported by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (FK 123813).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Ecology & Evolution thanks the anonymous reviewers for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Peer reviewer reports are available.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Extended Data Fig. 1 Definition of global regions according to biogeographical and geopolitical conditions.
Definition of global regions according to biogeographical and geopolitical conditions.
Final breakdown of scoring of direct drivers by world regions and importance.
Extended Data Fig. 3 Final breakdown of scoring of risks by world regions, impact and components of risk (probability, scale, severity).
Final breakdown of scoring of risks by world regions, impact and components of risk (probability, scale, severity).
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Dicks, L.V., Breeze, T.D., Ngo, H.T. et al. A global-scale expert assessment of drivers and risks associated with pollinator decline. Nat Ecol Evol 5, 1453–1461 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-021-01534-9
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