New EU initiative aims to tackle the decline of Europe’s pollinators

June 6th, 2018

The European Commission has proposed new measures in an attempt to halt a decline in wild pollinator populations across Europe.

The Commission’s new proposals include improvements in monitoring and data collection and policies to address the social and economic aspects of the decreasing numbers of pollinators.

According to the EU, almost one-third of bee and butterfly species are declining and one in ten pollinating insects are close to extinction.

The creation of a list of habitats important to pollinating insects is also proposed by the Commission, together with an assessment of their condition based on reporting of Member States under the Habitats Directive.

The Directive aims to ensure the conservation of a wide range of rare, threatened or endemic animal, plant species and habitats across Europe.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said that a lot is already being done by EU to confront the issue, but that more work has to be done.

“With the worrying status of pollinating insects, particularly of bees and butterflies, it is clear we have to step up our game,” he said.

Photo: PollyDot

Awareness Raising

The Commission is also planning to raise awareness among the general public on the issue, as well as incentivising farmers and the agri-food industry to help in conservation efforts.

According to the Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, action is required now in order to protect the future of European farming.

In the EU alone, four in five crop and wildflower species depend on insect pollination and €15 billion of the bloc’s annual agricultural output is directly attributed to pollination.

“Our farmer’s future and wellbeing of our rural communities depend or healthy ecosystem with rich biodiversity,” Mr Hogan said.

“While [pollinators] work comes for free it is invaluable in maintaining the flow of goods and services from nature that underpin our existence,” he added.

The Commission also wants to launch a project to monitor the presence of pesticides in the environment, with goals set for both 2020 and 2030 under the EU Pollinators Initiative.

The use of neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoors crops was recently restricted after research found that the use of these pesticides was proving harmful for both honeybees and wild bees.

The Irish Situation

In Ireland, bee populations have declined in recent years due to the loss of natural and semi-natural habitats to intensive farmland, forestry and urbanisation according to National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC).

More that half of Ireland’s bee species had undergone major decline since the 1980s, with a decline witnessed across all habitats from grasslands to woodlands, peatlands and mature hedgerows.

Dr Una Fitzpatrick, an ecologist with NBDC, told The Green News that a large percentage of of Ireland’s bee species are now at risk.

“One third of Ireland’s 98 bee species are threatened with extinction from the island. We are actively tackling this through All-Ireland Pollinator Plan which was launched in 2015,” she said.

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