Capacity and willingness of farmers and citizen scientists to monitor crop pollinators and pollination services
Insects pollinate many globally important crops and therefore rapid and effective means to measure crop pollinators and pollination are required to support national monitoring schemes and allow localised measurements of pollinator supply and demand to crops. We tested user-friendly protocols for assessing pollinators and pollination in crops to better understand the capacity and willingness of a group of farmers and citizen scientists to implement such techniques in the field. We asked the different recorder groups including farmers and agronomists, non-expert volunteers and experienced researchers to complete three pollinator and pollination service assessment techniques: transect walks, pan trapping and pollinator exclusion and supplementary pollination. Recorders provided feedback on each method through a questionnaire and the data collected using different methods were compared. Our volunteer members of the public, and farmers and agronomists were able to implement all assessment techniques in apple, bean and oilseed rape fields. The experienced researchers and volunteer members of the public were more willing to record bumblebees to species level on transects than the farmers and agronomists. There was also a significant interaction between recorder and crop type for certain insect taxa demonstrating that in certain crops some taxa may be easier to record than others. All our recorder groups found transects and pan traps straightforward and enjoyable to implement. Our non-expert volunteers were willing to use pollinator exclusion and supplementary pollination techniques as part of a wider scheme, the farmers and agronomists who implemented the technique were less positive about applying this method more widely. We have demonstrated that volunteer recorders, including farmers and agronomists, can be engaged and are able to implement methods to assess pollinators and pollination, although additional training is necessary to ensure accurate species data collection. For the more direct and time consuming measures of pollination service, both training and additional support may be needed, particularly for farmers. The tools developed and tested here will be valuable for wider pollinator monitoring schemes and for integration into standard agronomic practices.
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Global Ecology and Conservation