Wales launches Action Plan for Pollinators

An Action Plan for Pollinators in Wales was launched last Tuesday by Alun Davies, Natural Resources Minister. The plan is the first of its kind across the UK, and sets out a series of steps to help stop and reverse pollinator declines seen in the past few decades. It’s a positive step in ensuring that the value of the ecosystem services the natural environment provides is fully accounted for by governments, and that these services continue into the future.The overall vision of the plan is: ‘Wales supports healthy populations of wild and managed pollinators to benefit the people, economy and environment of Wales’.

The National Ecosystem Assessment showed that pollinator numbers have been declining for the past 30 years. Over the past few months, research and reports focusing on bees and other pollinators have led to increased policy scrutiny across the UK and in the EU. At the end of April, the European Commission decided to implement a two-year ban on 3 neonicotinoid pesticides that were highlighted as posing an ‘unacceptable risk’ to honeybees by the European Food Safety Authority. Just last week, another pesticide, fipronil, was banned across Europe by the Commission.

Wales’ Action Plan for Pollinators was launched following consultation earlier this year. The plan gives four main outcomes:

Outcome 1: Wales has joined up policy, governance and a sound evidence base for action for pollinators;

Outcome 2: Wales provides diverse and connected flower rich habitats to support our pollinators;

Outcome 3: Wales’ pollinator populations are healthy;

Outcome 4: Wales’ citizens are better informed and aware of the importance and management of pollinators.

Wales’ Action Plan for Pollinators recognises the key role that pollinators play in ecosystems, and in the economy. Pollination is vital for food, farming and tourism, with the value to the UK estimated at £430 million per year. The specific drivers behind their declines are not known, but there are several factors that are thought to contribute. Land use intensification, habitat loss and fragmentation, disease, agro-chemicals, and climate change have all been identified as areas of concern in Wales’ Action Plan. With agriculture forming just under 80% of land use in Wales, there is a need to ensure that conditions are improved for pollinators across these habitats.

One of the main recommendations from the plan is creation of a Pollinators Taskforce, who will develop initiatives relating to the implementation of the plan, produce best practice guidance, and develop a communications plan. With regards to agricultural land, the group have been tasked with considering how Glastir, Wales’ agri-environment scheme can improve outcomes for biodiversity and pollinators.

Compared to Wales, Westminster has been hesitant on the issue of instant action for pollinators. The UK voted against the neonicotinoid ban in Europe, and abstained in the fipronil vote. Differences in environment policy between England and Wales are also seen for badgers and structuring of environmental management agencies. A move towards pollinator health and research in England, however, is now emerging. Earlier this month, a report assessing the value and health of pollinators in England was published by Defra, and the development of a National Pollinator Strategy was announced. This aims to be implemented by spring 2014.