The decline in diversity and abundance of pollinator populations has raised concerns across the globe. Pollinators support the production of food crops and conservation measures for wild pollinator species can both improve crop yields and protect important natural and agricultural biodiversity. Landscape management, improved agricultural practices, limitations on chemical use, and crop diversification are example strategies that might conserve and enhance flower visitation by wild pollinators. Unfortunately, data availability, expertise in pollination biology, and the development of conceptual models are focused in Europe and North America and may not be applicable to the South African landscape. Gaps in knowledge are barriers to understanding pollination services and improving agricultural management to increase crop yields, as well as to conserve endangered wild pollinator populations in South Africa.
The Basque Center for Climate Change (BC3) has proposed to develop specific pollination-related ecosystem service models tailored to the needs of South African end-users using the Artificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services (ARIES) platform and its underlying software, K.LAB. ARIES integrates scientific data and models that simulate and integrate environmental and socio-economic systems, deepening understanding of the natural world and of how the choices society makes can impact future economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. It is a tool that allows users to understand complex links between nature and people and can make science matter in decision making. In order to best design the platform development for South Africa, the JRS Biodiversity Foundation will support an eight-month planning effort to secure scientific partnerships, assess available data, and better understand stakeholder needs for a multi-year implementation effort.
Key Objectives and Activities
Gather and evaluate available data on pollination services in South Africa.
Form a South African and an international pollination expert committee to collaborate during the multi-year implementation phase on the development of a series of conceptual models specifically tailored to South Africa.
Meet with growers’ associations and local governments to identify end-users whose decisions could be influenced by model results.
Create targeted questionnaires to understand potential land-use decisions.
Build local capacities through training and data sharing with all stakeholders.
Video Progress Update, May 2020
With COVID-19 restricting travel and meeting with our grantees, JRS invited our projects to submit a short update for the JRS Board of Trustees. Though intended for an internal JRS audience, we loved these videos and share them here with permission. Enjoy!
A report that evaluates local pollination-related data availability, quality, and content.
A South African and an international pollination expert committee.
A detailed fieldwork plan to collect meaningful data to feed into the conceptual models.
A South African Advisory Board.
A list of farmers, land managers, and other potential end-users.
Questionnaires for end-users to help understand potential land use decisions.
A training course tailored to the needs of collaborators and potential end-users.
The outcome of this eight-month planning phase will be the BC3 team’s deeper understanding of the agricultural landscape, needs of South African stakeholders, availability of data, and of collaborating scientists and institutions. The assessments and planning will result in a multi-year implementation project suitable for JRS’ long-term funding.
The ultimate aspiration of the implementation phase will be to support science-based decision-making related to wild pollinators with models calibrated and validated using local data. The dynamic ecosystem service models will be able to help evaluate the effect of different land-use scenarios on the potential for the landscape to provide sufficient pollination services to crops. They will also help users communicate best landscape and agricultural management practices. This collaborative effort involving both European and South African researchers will build a two-way transfer of information and expertise and result in trained bioinformatics researchers in South Africa. The partnerships created will allow for a growing community of openly accessible models shared through the ARIES integrated modeling framework. It is expected that users will continue to be trained and gain a better understanding of the way in which wild pollinators can impact crop yields and biodiversity across South Africa.
Project Director Biography
Dr. Ainhoa Marach is a community ecologist whose research focuses on aligning development and conservation outcomes within human-dominated landscapes. She has extensive international experience and has demonstrated her leadership capabilities in different projects located in temperate and tropical ecosystems across four continents. Her research uses plant-pollinator interactions as model species, and she has worked on both basic and applied aspects of this process. Lately, her work has focused on using the crop pollination services framework for conservation purposes. Some of her work in this area has focused on crop pollination services to coffee from neighboring forest fragments in the Western Ghats in India.
Note From JRS
JRS is pleased to support this effort by BC3 to plan how its ARIES work can apply to understand and better manage pollination services in South African landscapes. Planning grants are a frequent tool that JRS uses when we receive a proposal that excites us for its potential but for which critical uncertainties prevent accurate planning and budgeting or design for success. We hope to facilitate the transfer of biodiversity informatics technologies from North America and Europe to African contexts. However, scientists from ‘the north’ may not have collaborators in Africa, an understanding of local institutional dynamics, or knowledge of African biodiversity and ecosystems. We hope this time and financial support will bring BC3 and South African collaborators together to analyze and plan the opportunities for ARIES in South Africa.