Let’s stop the insect apocalypse

Nowadays pollinators are in danger

The modern world has brought a number of changes, especially in densely urbanized areas; along with the reduction of natural habitats, the threat of loss of biodiversity also appeared. The disappearance of pollinators is caused by several concurrent factors, related to current social and ecological problems. Among the main causes are climate change; atmospheric pollution; the growth and development of urban areas, which lead to the loss of natural habitats; significant increase in agricultural areas, intensive agricultural practices, use of pesticides; reorganization of biotic interactions, emergence of invasive insect species.

Let’s Stop the Insect Apocalypse
The main pollinator species are bees, bumblebees, wasps, butterflies; certain species of beetles can also pollinate.

Pollinators are essential in food production, most agricultural crops, fruits and vegetables are produced by pollination, and their loss threatens food security globally. According to beekeeping experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, one third of the world’s food production depends on bees. Pollinator-dependent food production has increased 300% in the last half century, with an annual market value of $577 billion in the US.

"We are in the midst of an extinction crisis, but for many people this is intangible. Perhaps pollinators are the alarm clock of mass extinction."

Most people live in cities; Currently, 56% of the world’s population lives in cities, and by 2050 this value will reach 70%. Therefore, adaptation to the effects of climate change in urban areas will become increasingly important. It is inevitable to implement necessary measures to preserve and bring back pollination, and urban environments could become the right place for this, through sustainable development with ecological solutions. The importance of green areas in cities is increasing, and these urban areas can become a refuge for pollinating insects. In this regard, the main role of urban green spaces is to create habitats with large areaa, to connect zoological networks, to provide them with ecological corridors to allow them as much room for movement as possible, insects can cover whole kilometers by flight.

Despite the increase in the volume of food production dependent on pollination, the number of pollinations is continuously decreasing to an alarming extent, these days we can say that the insect armageddon or apocalypse is taking place.

Although pollinators are threatened with progressive extinction, in many cases adequate measures are not taken in time to mitigate the problem. The most frequently encountered obstacles in a successful managementnet are: deficiencies in information and public relations or lack of experience; lack of coordination between stakeholders; lack of funds and personnel for project implementation; education and training needs; lack of acceptance of pollinator-friendly areas among society; improper maintenance of green spaces, etc.

In the big European cities, however, there are initiatives to follow, which have been implemented to protect insects, the approach of innovative practices in urban development has led to a series of favorable changes.

In Berlin, they managed to overcome these obstacles, through the pollination strategy of Berlin and the project “More bees for Berlin. Berlin is blooming!”, developed in 2018 – 2019, with the involvement of several stakeholders. The main objective of the strategy is the protection and promotion of bees, the improvement of living conditions for pollinators in Berlin.

The steps included to achieve the objectives were: creation of perennial wildflower meadows and nesting structures; consulting and providing resources for private and public initiatives; development of educational materials, conferences, workshops and events.

Another example of a successful approach to the problem is Paris; with a relatively small area for its population (100 km² with 2.27 million inhabitants while Rome for example has 1 300 km² with 2.8 million inhabitants), a large number of people live together; it is an enormous challenge to protect biodiversity. With the realization of the danger of reducing the number of pollinations, a series of measures were taken to protect insects, to create as many green spaces as possible, to intervene as little as possible in natural habitats, to take great care of existing green areas. The ecological management of the city prohibits the use of chemical substances, and proposes to respect the nesting periods in the green areas, the number of mowing/year in the green areas is reduced to a minimum.

Adequate ecological management of the city has brought significant results; a recent study of pollinators in Paris showed that the pollination system is rich despite the high urban density.

In Rome, research was carried out on the effect of urban warming on the evolution of insects, especially pollinating species. There are currently very few studies documenting the effects of heat on urban pollinators. Regarding the effects of rising urban temperatures, research in Rome has shown that this rise in temperature has led to a more even distribution of species, i.e. a reduction in species diversity, with more adaptable species becoming dominant. Temperature was the main determinant of the number of wild bee communities in the city.

Research has shown that urban forests are on average 1.6 °C cooler than built-up areas, so urban greening can protect wild pollinators and the high quality of green areas can contribute to flower and nesting resources.

Following the research and implementation presented, it is clear that the main objectives should be to restore, maintain the green area by providing nature-based solutions, pollinators should also be protected from invasive species that can have a negative effect.

In Europe there are several provisions related to the protection of biodiversity and, involved, the pollinator system.

The EU Nature Restoration Act requires member states to “reverse the decline in pollinator populations by 2030 and subsequently achieve an upward trend in pollinator populations, measured every three years after 2030, until satisfactory levels are reached”.

The EU PoMs aims to establish pollinator monitoring systems in all Member States by 2026, and then pool the data to feed into an EU pollinator indicator by 2030.

Following these provisions, there are certain recommendations for local authorities:

  • Preserving existing habitats for pollinators
  • Restoring, creating and connecting pollination habitats
  • Improving soil condition
  • Creating nesting and hibernation habitats for wild pollinators
  • Adjusting mowing practices
  • Preventing and managing the use of chemical pesticides in accordance with the SUPD
  • Control of invasive alien species
  • Cultivating pollinator-friendly indigenous seed mixes
  • Awareness through community involvement and environmental education
  • Monitoring urban pollinators

Urban greening plans should manifest as part of an integrated and comprehensive urban strategy that addresses biodiversity loss, reduces the impact of climate change and addresses the social dimensions of urban greening; they should be action-oriented and function as a comprehensive implementation plan with clear objectives, timelines and responsibilities.

As a conclusion, we can say that we need strong specific policies to protect pollinators, the relevant policies must step in!

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