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Biocultural approaches to pollinator conservation

An Author Correction to this article was published on 22 March 2019

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Pollinators underpin sustainable livelihoods that link ecosystems, spiritual and cultural values, and customary governance systems with indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) across the world. Biocultural diversity is a shorthand term for this great variety of people–nature interlinkages that have developed over time in specific ecosystems. Biocultural approaches to conservation explicitly build on the conservation practices inherent in sustaining these livelihoods. We used the Conceptual Framework of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services to analyse the biocultural approaches to pollinator conservation by IPLCs globally. The analysis identified biocultural approaches to pollinators across all six elements of the Conceptual Framework, with conservation-related practices occurring in 60 countries, in all continents except Antarctica. Practices of IPLCs that are important for biocultural approaches to pollinator conservation can be grouped into three categories: the practice of valuing diversity and fostering biocultural diversity; landscape management practices; and diversified farming systems. Particular IPLCs may use some or all of these practices. Policies that recognize customary tenure over traditional lands, strengthen indigenous and community-conserved areas, promote heritage listing and support diversified farming systems within a food sovereignty approach are among several identified that strengthen biocultural approaches to pollinator conservation, and thereby deliver mutual benefits for pollinators and people.

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Fig. 1: Overview of analysis.
Fig. 2: Global patterns of the contribution of biocultural approaches for pollinators and pollination to quality of life, from studies and/or sites identified in the analysis.
Fig. 3: Stingless bee anatomy and ontogeny according to the Kayapó.
Fig. 4: Nature’s contributions to people.

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Data availability

Data for Figs. 2 and 4 are available at CSIRO Data Access Portal ( Several files are available for download, including the spatial data for all the locations on the maps, and the literature or online sources for each of these locations. Data which link the literature/online sources to the locations are also available upon request to the corresponding author, with a brief explanation of why the data is required. These restrictions are in place to protect the privacy of the indigenous peoples and local communities. Source data for Figs. 1 and 3 are shown in the captions.

Change history

  • 22 March 2019

    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via a link at the top of the paper.


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We thank the indigenous peoples and local communities globally who provided their knowledge of practices and philosophies underpinning conservation of pollinators and pollination to the hundreds of publications that we reviewed for this article. Their contributions to the sustainable use and conservation of biocultural diversity over millennia benefits many peoples globally, and we are deeply grateful. We particularly thank those IPLCs and their partners who participated directly in global and community dialogues about pollination for the IPBES assessment of pollinators and pollination in food production. H. Ngo of the IPBES Secretariat and D. Nakashima and his team from UNESCO provided wonderful support to these dialogues. We also acknowledge the fine efforts of IPBES to work with ILK in their assessments and their commitments to recognize and respect the roles of IPLCs. We thank IPBES for the opportunity to be involved in the assessment that enabled our team of co-authors to meet each another and subsequently progress this paper. Each of us acknowledges and thanks the organizations that supported our contributions to this paper. L.V.D. is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council NERC (NE/N014472/1). R.H. is supported through CSIRO Land and Water’s Indigenous Futures initiative. We thank G. C. Aragão of Embrapa Amazônia Oriental and J. Smith of WhiteSpace Design Studio for their contributions to Figs. 1–4.

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R.H., G.N.-P. and J.J.G.Q.-E. coordinated the conceptual design, and together with D.B., G.L. and M.M.M., drafted the text of the manuscript. P.L.P. undertook the spatial analysis and prepared the maps, with assistance from R.H. and L.G. in data preparation. All 21 authors contributed to the ideas, evaluation of the literature, review and finalization of the text.

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Correspondence to Rosemary Hill.

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Hill, R., Nates-Parra, G., Quezada-Euán, J.J.G. et al. Biocultural approaches to pollinator conservation. Nat Sustain 2, 214–222 (2019).

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