Agricultural Biodiversity

Pollinators - Introduction

Pollination is one of the most important mechanisms in the maintenance and promotion of biodiversity and, in general, life on Earth. Many ecosystems, including many agro-ecosystems, depend on pollinator diversity to maintain overall biological diversity. Pollination also benefits society by increasing food security and improving livelihoods. Pollinators are extremely diverse, with more than 20,000 pollinating bee species and numerous other insect and vertebrate pollinators. Therefore pollinators are essential for diversity in diet and for the maintenance of natural resources. The assumption that pollination is a "free ecological service" is erroneous. It requires resources, such as refuges of natural vegetation. Where these are reduced or lost they become limiting, and adaptive management practices are required to sustain livelihoods.

In the mid-1990s, scientists and agriculturists around the world became concerned by a decline in pollinator diversity. In order to sustain pollinator services associated with agricultural ecosystems, far more understanding is needed of the multiple goods and services provided by pollinator diversity and the factors that influence their decline and activity. It is necessary to identify adaptive management practices that minimize negative impacts by humans on pollinators, promote the conservation and diversity of native pollinators, and conserve and restore natural areas necessary to optimize pollinator services in agricultural and other terrestrial ecosystems. This situation prompted policymakers, at the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to establish an International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators.

The Convention’s cross-cutting initiative on the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators aims to:

  • Monitor pollinator decline, its causes and its impact on pollination services
  • Address the lack of taxonomic information on pollinators
  • Assess the economic value of pollination and the economic impact of the decline of pollination services
  • Promote the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of pollinator diversity in agriculture and related ecosystems

The conservation and sustainable use of pollinators intersect on a number of key issues. Pollinators contribute to biodiversity and life on Earth, on food security and to the global economy.

The cross-cutting initiative is to be developed within the context of the CBD’s existing programme of work on agricultural biodiversity, with appropriate links to other thematic programmes of work, particularly those on forest biological diversity and the biodiversity of dry and sub-humid lands, and with relevant cross-cutting issues, particularly the Global Taxonomy Initiative and work on invasive alien species. The initiative provides an opportunity to apply the ecosystem approach. The initiative aims to reach outside the CBD process to strengthen the work of existing Partners & Initiatives concerned with conservation and sustainable use of pollinators.

The initiative on conservation and sustainable use of pollinators was formally established by decision VI/5 annex II of the Conference of the Parties, in 2002 and is built around four elements and their supporting activities. The mandate for establishing the initiative was provided by decision V/5. The framework for the initiative was developed considering the recommendations of the Sao Paulo Declaration on Pollinators, based on the results of the Workshop on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators in Agriculture, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 7-9 October 1998.