Lecture Report: The Value of Pollinators

Submitted by admin on Tue, 12/15/2015 - 17:04
Bumble Bee

Report written by Frank McGourty, IBIOLI Secretary

This is the IBILOI Report on Lecture: "The Value of Pollinators", which occurred under the aegis of The Institute of Biology of Ireland at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, on 13th November 2015. The lecture was Professor Jane Stout, Trinity College Dublin.

Professor Jane Stout, TCD
A selection of some of the lecture attendees

ProfessorJane Stout, presented some startling facts on the decline in pollinator numbers and the potential impact on production and yields of many crops totally familiar to us. She conveyed to the assembled audience, drawn from a wide range of interest groups such as beekeepers, apple farmers, professional and academic interests, that pollinator concerns have become popular in the press, the general public and in political spheres. Much of the argument for supporting pollinators is based on the fact that they contribute to food production by pollinating entomophilous crops.

She emphasized that this is valuable for several reasons: for food security for an ever expanding human population, to contribute to healthy diets as many insect-pollinated crops contain essential and desirable vitamins, to provide consumer choice and access to luxury foods, and because crop production has an economic value.

Turning to a broader theme, she conveyed to the audience the value of pollinators as providers of a service, which is key to many terrestrial ecosystems, and indirectly to a wide range of biodiversity and ecosystem services, is often overlooked. For example, by pollinating wild plants, insect pollinators contribute to the diets of fruit and seed eating animals, enable diverse plant communities with mixtures of insect and non-insect pollinated species to persist, and non-bee pollinators perform other functions during their larval stages (such as population regulation of plants by caterpillars, and of phytophagous insects by hoverfly larvae).

Thus the decline of pollinators and their conservation is not only economically important, but also ecologically as well. She also referred to the recently launched Pollination Plan for Ireland and promoted the idea that everyone from amateur gardeners, the farming community and the environmentally aware can contribute in various way to engage with the objectives of this plan.

The lecture, which was followed by a lively session of questions, was extremely well received by those who attended. Dr. Kay Nolan, School of Biology and Environmental Science, UCD, in her concluding remarks thanked Prof Joan Stout for sharing her valuable time and expertise with the membership of the Institute of Biology of Ireland and the various interest groups in attendance.