Protection of wild pollinators in the pesticide risk assessment and management

Biotic pollination of flowering plants is a central process in natural communities. About 85% of flowering plants are pollinated by animals (Ollerton et al. 2011) and numerous crops depend on animal pollination (Klein et al. 2007).

Pollinating species include mostly insects, e.g. bees, moths, butterflies, beetles and hoverflies (EFSA 2015). They provide an ecosystem service of high relevance for the preservation of natural plant communities as well as for yields of agricultural crops. Gallai et al. (2009) estimated the total economic value of animal pollination worldwide at €153 billion. Furthermore, pollinating insects contribute to biodiversity, are essential elements of food webs and last but not least they have an aesthetical value.

Pollinator population declines

Latest research on biodiversity in agricultural landscapes indicates declines in populations of wild pollinating insects (Goulson et al. 2015; Potts et al. 2015; BfN 2015). Possible reasons for this development include habitat loss and fragmentation, environmental pollution, invasive species, parasites, pathogens and also the application of pesticides (Goulson et al. 2015; Potts et al. 2015).

Wild pollinators in risk assessment and risk management of pesticides

Current pesticide risk assessment practice for the terrestrial compartment is based on the outcome of the ESCORT 2 workshop (Candolfi et al. 2000) and the SANCO guidance document on terrestrial ecotoxicology (SANCO 2002). Within the scope of the risk assessment the honey bee is tested which is assumed to be representative for all bee species. Other taxa of pollinators are not assessed, so far. The new EFSA (European Food Safety Authority, EFSA) guidance document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees additionally includes an assessment of representative bumblebee and solitary bee species (EFSA 2013). However, this guidance document has not yet been accepted by EU member states. The risk assessment for non-target arthropods does not include any further pollinating species either. Thus, the question arises whether wild pollinating insects are sufficiently protected in the current risk assessment and risk management schemes. Moreover, the spatial dynamics of mobile arthropods (such as wild pollinators) which move between non-target area (e.g. buffer strip) and target area (field) are not taken into account. Becoming aware of these uncertainties, EFSA published a scientific opinion in 2015 addressing the state of the science on risk assessment of plant protection products for non-target arthropods (EFSA 2015), that for the first time suggests the testing of a lepidopteran larva as representative of herbivorous and pollinating insects. The preparation of an EFSA guideline is planned for 2017.

Project objectives

The research and development project FKZ: 3715 64 409 0, funded by the German Federal Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt), aims to provide a basis for the revision of risk assessment and risk management schemes for the protection of wild pollinators from the effects of plant protection products. As part of this project, the current EFSA scientific opinions and guidance for the risk assessment of bees and terrestrial non-target arthropods will be reviewed for deficits with respect to the protection of wild pollinators. Furthermore, data on ecology, exposure and toxicological sensitivity of wild pollinators will be collected. Based on this data, the relative sensitivity of different groups of wild pollinators in crop-specific landscape scenarios will be determined. Based on this information, criteria for the risk assessment scheme on wild pollinating insects as well as recommendations for the improvement of potential risk management options will be developed.

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Candolfi MP, Barrett KL, Campbell PJ, Forster R, Grandy N, Huet MC, G., Oomen PA, Schmuck R, Vogt H (2000) Guidance document on regulatory testing and risk assessment procedures for plant protection products with non-target arthropods. ESCORT 2 workshop (European Standard Characteristics of non-target arthropod Regulatory Testing). Wageningen, The Netherlands.

EFSA (2013) Guidance on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp. and solitary bees). EFSA Journal 11 (7):3295.

EFSA (2015) Scientific Opinion addressing the state of the science on risk assessment of plant protection products for non-target arthropods. EFSA Journal 13 (2):3996.

Gallai N, Salles JM, Settele J, Vaissiere BE (2009) Economic valuation of the vulnerability of world agriculture confronted with pollinator decline. Ecol Econ 68 (3):810-821. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.06.014.

Goulson D, Nicholls E, Botias C, Rotheray EL (2015) Bee declines driven by combined stress from parasites, pesticides, and lack of flowers. Science 347 (6229):1435-+. doi:10.1126/science.1255957.

Klein AM, Vaissiere BE, Cane JH, Steffan-Dewenter I, Cunningham SA, Kremen C, Tscharntke T (2007) Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. P Roy Soc B-Biol Sci 274 (1608):303-313. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3721.

BfN (2015) Artenschutz-Report 2015: Tiere und Pflanzen in Deutschland. Bundesamt für Naturschutz, Bonn.

Ollerton J, Winfree R, Tarrant S (2011) How many flowering plants are pollinated by animals? Oikos 120 (3):321-326. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0706.2010.18644.x.

Potts S, Biesmeijer K, Bommarco R, Breeze T, Carvalheiro L, Franzén M, González-Varo JP, Holzschuh A. KD, Klein A.-M. K, B., Lecocq T, Lundin O, Michez D, Neumann P, Nieto A, Penev L, Rasmont P, Ratamäki O, Riedinger V, Roberts SPM, Rundlöf M, Scheper J, Sørensen P, Steffan-Dewenter I, Stoev P, Vilà M, Schweiger O (2015) Status and trends of European pollinators. Key findings of the STEP project. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.

SANCO (2002) Guidance Document on Terrestrial Ecotoxicology under Council Directive 91/414/EEC. SANCO/10329/2002 rev 2 final.

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