Declines in the biodiversity of pollinating insects and wild plants have slowed in recent years, according to a new study.
Researchers led by the University of Leeds and the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands found evidence of dramatic reductions in the diversity of species in Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands between the 1950s and 1980s.
But the picture brightened markedly after 1990, with a slowdown in local and national biodiversity losses among bees, hoverflies and wild plants.
Professor Bill Kunin, Professor of Ecology at the University of Leeds, said: "Most observers have been saying that the 1992 Rio Earth Summit targets to slow biodiversity loss by 2010 failed, but what we are seeing is a significant slowing or reversal of the declines for wild plants and their insect pollinators.
"These species are important to us. About a third of our food production, including most of our fruit and vegetables, depends on animal pollination and we know that most crop pollination is done by wild pollinators. Biodiversity is important to ensuring we don't lose that service. Relying on a few species could be risky in a changing environment," he added.
The study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, found a 30 per cent fall in local bumblebee biodiversity in all three countries between the 1950s and the 1980s. However, that decline slowed to an estimated 10 per cent in Britain by 2010, while in Belgium and the Netherlands bumblebee diversity had stabilised.
The picture was better for other wild bees, with an 8 per cent reduction in diversity in the Netherlands and a stable picture in Great Britain turning into significant increases (7 per cent in the Netherlands and 10 per cent in Britain) over the past 20 years. While these solitary bees continued to decline in Belgium, hoverfly diversity improved there, shifting from stable diversity in the 1980s to significant (20 per cent) increas
|Contact: Chris Bunting|
University of Leeds