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UEA researcher presents a ‘hierarchy of plans’ to save wild pollinators

PUBLISHED: 09:07 30 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:27 30 November 2018

Dr Lynn Dicks speaking at the Brexit, Bees and the Brown Stuff event at the UEA Enterprise Centre. Picture: Chris Hill.

Dr Lynn Dicks speaking at the Brexit, Bees and the Brown Stuff event at the UEA Enterprise Centre. Picture: Chris Hill.

Archant

The management of farming landscapes needs to be transformed in order to safeguard the threatened wild pollinators on which many food crops depend, said a leading Norfolk researcher.

Dr Lynn Dicks of the University of East Anglia’s School of Biological Sciences, who was speaking at the “Brexit, Bees and the Brown Stuff” seminar at the UEA Enterprise Centre, said populations of wild pollinators are declining worldwide, putting valuable foods and ecosystems at risk.

“In the UK, one of the main things which has happened during the biggest declines of insects pre-1980 was that we have gone from having a lot of flowers in the landscape and lot of flower-rich, species-rich grassland, to having a lot of grassland with no flowers,” she said.

“We lost 97pc of our flower-rich meadows over a few decades up to 1989. The most important drivers of pollinator decline are land management and land use.”

To correct this decline, Dr Dicks presented a “hierarchy” of solutions, with the most favoured Plan A being to keep the “diverse, abundant communities of wild pollinators we had in the UK 100 years ago”.

As that may prove difficult, she said Plan B would be to start to transform the management of landscapes, particularly in the context of productive farming, to support thriving wild pollinator communities.

Failing that, Plan C would be for more hives of managed pollinators to carry out the service usually provided by wild bees and the last resort, Plan D, was to develop swarms of pollinating drones – a futuristic-sounding solution, but one for which US retail giant Walmart has already filed a patent.

READ MORE: British food could be ‘demonised’ in EU after Brexit, says UEA law professor

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