Why do we need to protect bees?

This is a very tricky question. Recent media coverage and policy makers are increasingly using the “ecosystem services” argument to justify the conservation of bee populations. Bees are indeed providing us with a precious service, the pollination of 75% of our crops. However, “bees” are a diverse group of more than 20.000 species. David Kleijn had the wonderful idea to check how many of those bee species are responsible of crop pollination and I was more than happy to help him find out. This is the resulting paper. Surprisingly very few species made most of the crop pollination job. Moreover, those species are the ones of least conservation concern, as I already showed here.

What does this means? We should enhance agro-ecosystems to maximize crop pollination by bees. There is no doubt about this and repeated papers had shown that more green infrastructure enhance pollinator densities and thereby pollination. BUT if we want to protect the bee species that really need our help, other measures and incentives are needed beyond ecosystem service delivery. Those threatened species pollinate wild plants, parasite other bees (potentially regulating populations) or are part of larger food webs. Conserving rare bees and other animals should be done without an economical incentive in mind, otherwise, conservationists selling the idea that biodiversity should be conserved because it provide us with services may end up shooting them selfs in the foot by allowing policy makers to protect only the species that are of any immediate use.

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3 thoughts on “Why do we need to protect bees?

  1. Pingback: Why do we need to protect bees? | Bartomeus lab | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  2. I liked the moral argument at the end of the paper. It is right that human nutrition is very important and a key issue. But using only the economic and anthropocentric arguments one could ask why we should try to protect the “whole” biodiversity. So the moral argument that other species without a direct use for us are as valuable as those providing pollination services is very important and powerful. I think we need to create much more interest and consciousness – education and transmitting enthusiasm are crucial!

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