Insects pollinate more than 100 cultivated plants such as onions, strawberries, cauliflower, mustard, carrots, apples, leek and cassava. Pollination represents a key benefit to nature and to the mankind, vital to the maintenance of wild plants and agricultural productivity. Benefits of pollination for human nutrition are endless. It ensures food quality, vitamin sufficiency and human nutritional diversity. Many crops would disappear without insect pollination, a process which influences the variety, fullness and quality of fruits, nuts and seeds.
Strawberries: after open insect-pollination
(left), passive self-pollination
(middle) and passive self-pollination,
and wind-pollination (right).
However, the abundance of bees and other insect pollinators, as well as their benefit for humans in terms of agriculture yields, follow the declining trend for the last few decades while some species are clearly at risk of extinction. For example, there are almost no countries in Europe which do not suffer from the decline in honeybees stock, while some have experienced a decline above 50% in the last five years. Decline in pollination service may have many highly negative effects on humans, as well as on plants and animals in the wild. This is especially true for agriculture where it is necessary to estimate the potential economic loss due to the decline in pollinators.
At BioSense, we estimate the level of vulnerability of agriculture to the extinction of insect pollinators, by using different techniques of economic valuation of pollination. In this way, we provide guidance for maintaining, even enhancement in the production of agricultural crops that depend on insect pollinators and guidance for the effective and rational allocation of pollination between opposing environmental, social and political demands.
BioSense researchers have estimated that over 164 million € will be lost annually if all insect pollinators vanish in the Province of Vojvodina. The major part of this loss would come from decline in fruits and oilcrops production. Having in mind that Vojvodina represents only a fraction of Europe’s arable land, this result illustrates the importance of preservation of pollinator species. BioSense researchers provide custom-tailored habitat management measures for enhancement of pollination and an early warning system which allows prompt insight into changes of pollinator populations and associated risks for agricultural production. Combined with agricultural data, such as quantification of landscape structures, BioSense can create management plans for synergic agricultural and ecological activities on the local, national and regional scales.
Meet the vulnerable pollinators
Identification of an exact number of species, diversity, abundance and behavior of pollinator community is the base for their protection and their successful use in the agriculture and food production. Researchers at BioSense study three important groups of pollinators: wild bees, bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apiformes), and hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) in natural and agricultural landscapes.
By means of various collecting and study method during the decades of research, we have found over 500 species of insect pollinators in Serbia. We realized ecological needs, nesting and foraging, as well as the influence of human activity on their populations. As a result of our pollinator exploration some new species has been described (e.x. Eumerus pannonicus sp. nova Ricarte, Vujić et Radenković). By researching of presence and quality of natural and semi-natural habitats, we estimate the importance of habitat types for pollination.
Bombus terrestris (Linnaeus, 1758) (upper left)
Megachile sp. (upper middle)
Dasypoda hirtipes (Fabricius, 1793) (upper right)
Helophilus trivittatus (Fabricius, 1805) (lower left)
Episyrphus balteatus (De Geer, 1776) (lower middle)
Chrysotoxum festivum (L., 1758) (lower right)