The highlight of the recently concluded Fourth Plenary Session of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-4), held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 22-28 February 2016, was the acceptance of the thematic assessment on pollinators, pollination and food production. This is the first thematic assessment completed by IPBES, which is designed to inform policymakers about biodiversity-related status and trends and offer policy-relevant strategic responses.
The summary for policymakers approved at IPBES-4 contained 22 key messages. Of particular note is that “the abundance, diversity and health of pollinators and the provision of pollination are threatened by direct drivers which generate risks to societies and ecosystems,” including land-use change. The assessment also considered the effect of pesticide use on pollinators. It observed that neonicotinoid insecticides show “evidence of lethal and sublethal effects on bees and some evidence of impacts on the pollination they provide.”
The loss of wetland habitat affects pollinators, pollination and food production in several ways. For example, the assessment stated “that the decrease of several bumble bee and butterfly species in Europe is probably attributable to the loss of unmanaged grasslands, heathlands, wetlands and bogs.” Climate change will further affect spatially restricted populations, such as those confined to small and isolated bogs, as they will no longer be able to find suitable habitat. Moreover, the method of wetland destruction can affect pollinators. Honey-harvesters in Sentarum Lake, Indonesia, reported that “that smoke coming from the deforestation for plantations [i.e., peat fires] has a direct negative impact on the arrival of the swarms in season and therefore on honey production.”
Some wetlands also can also provide a link to pollination and livelihoods. The assessment discusses a case study involving livelihoods through beekeeping in mangroves in Guinea Bissau.
Strategic responses that have well established evidence of direct benefits to pollinators include restoring natural habitats (in urban areas as well); rewarding farmers for pollinator-friendly practices; supporting organic and diversified farming systems; and improving managed bee husbandries.
With respect to other thematic assessments relevant to Ramsar, IPBES-4 welcomed the progress made in the land degradation and restoration assessment, which should be considered at IPBES-6 in 2018. The scoping report for the assessment on invasive alien species and their control was approved, but the decision on whether to undertake this assessment will be made at IPBES-5 in 2017. Similarly, a revised scoping report for the assessment on sustainable use and biodiversity also will be considered at IBPES-5.
Members of the Ramsar community remain engaged in the work of IPBES. The Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) is very much involved with the development of various assessments: STRP members Ritesh Kumar (expert group on valuation methodologies and regional/sub-regional assessments on biodiversity and ecosystem services) and Siobhan Fennessy (lead author for the thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration), as well as Sonali Senaratna Sellamuttu, IWMI’s former representative to the STRP (Co-Chair of the Asia-Pacific regional assessment) and former STRP invited expert Susan Galatowitsch (review editor for chapter six of the thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration), are making significant contributions. The STRP Chair is an observer to the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel of IPBES and attends IPBES plenary sessions. In addition, Rashad Allahverdiev, the Ramsar National Focal Point for Azerbaijan, was elected to the IPBES Bureau at IPBES-4.
The complete pollinators assessment and the summary for policymakers, as well as other IPBES-4 documents, should be available shortly on the IPBES website at www.ipbes.net.
-- Royal C. Gardner, STRP Chair