27-31 JULY, 2015 - FAO to host the 3rd IPBES author's meeting – assessment of “pollinators, pollination and food production"

Pollinators, pollination and food production – why the hype?

Pollination is a keystone process in both human managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems. It is critical for food production and human livelihoods, and directly links wild ecosystems with agricultural production systems. The vast majority of flowering plant species only produce seeds if animal pollinators move pollen from the anthers to the stigmas of their flowers. Without this service, many interconnected species and processes functioning within an ecosystem would collapse.
Most of the 25,000 to 30,000 species of bees are effective pollinators, and together with moths, flies, wasps, beetles and butterflies, make up the majority of pollinating species. Vertebrate pollinators include bats, non-flying mammals (several species of monkey, rodents, lemur, tree squirrels, olingo and kinkajou) and birds (hummingbirds, sunbirds, honeycreepers and some parrot species).
In agro-ecosystems, pollinators are essential for orchard, horticultural and forage production, as well as the production of seed for many root and fibre crops. Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world's crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, plus many plant-derived medicines. It has been estimated that at least 20 genera of animals other than honeybees provide pollination services to the world's most important crops.
For human nutrition the benefits of pollination include not just abundance of fruits, nuts and seeds, but also their variety and quality; the contribution of animal-pollinated foodstuffs to human nutritional diversity, vitamin sufficiency and food quality is substantial.

FAO and pollination
In 2000, FAO accepted the invitation of the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity to be the lead agency for facilitating and coordinating the International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators (or better known as the International Pollinators Initiative (see the Plan of Action). In response to this commitment, as well as reflecting FAO’s own work on sustainable agriculture and natural resources management, FAO has undertaken extensive work on issues related to pollination, ecosystem services and agricultural production, through its Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture. For example, FAO developed a Pollination Information Management System (PIMS), executed a GEF/UNEP/FAO global sized project on the conservation and management of pollinators for sustainable agriculture, and collaborates with numerous partners to bring forward the agenda of the sustainable management of ecosystem services.

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was established in April 2012, and its major goal is to provide the interface between science and policy on issues relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services. FAO is one of the four UN partners (along with UNDP, UNEP and UNESCO) working together with the IPBES.

Amongst its many activities, the IPBES Plenary decided that one of its assessments – indeed, its first assessment – would be on "pollination, pollinators and food production”.

For the assessment on "pollination, pollinators and food production", the chapter outline of the final document was approved as part of the Work Programme 2014-2018, at the 2nd Plenary Session of the IPBES. The thematic assessment is envisaged to consist of a summary for policy makers, and other products such as technical reports, databases, software and management tools, as appropriate. The assessment has six chapters, which address:

1. Overview of the diversity of pollinators and pollination systems and their role in supporting food production.
2. Assess the drivers of change of pollinators, pollination networks and pollination services.
3. Assess the state of and trends in pollinators, pollination networks and pollination services.
4. Assess economic methodologies for determining the value of pollination for food production and the economic impacts of declines in food-relevant pollinator populations.
5. Assess non-economic valuation, with special emphasis on the experience of indigenous and local communities, of impacts of the decline of diversity and/or populations of pollinators.
6. Assess responses to risks associated with the degradation of pollination services and opportunities to restore and strengthen those services.

Worldwide, experts were selected to prepare and review the assessment (two of FAO’s staff members are Expert Reviewers of this assessment), through a thorough process involving, amongst other means, meetings of the authors. The First Author’s Meeting was held in Bonn, Germany, and the Second Author’s Meeting was held in Belém, Brazil.
IPBES has accepted FAO’s invitation to host the Third Author’s Meeting, at FAO Headquarters, from 27-30 July, 2015.
In order to take advantage of the presence of the experts at FAO, the Major Area on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity is organizing a Brownbag lunch with Dr. Harpinder Sandhu on new methods to value ecosystem services on 31.07.2015 from 12:00 to 13:00 at the Philippine room (C-277).