Session: Conservation Planning, Policy, And Theory 2
Public perceptions of pollinators: A case for more inclusive pollinator conservation initiatives
Monday, August 2, 2021
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Katherine Burns, School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, Una Fitzpatrick, National Biodiversity Data Centre, Waterford, Ireland and Dara Stanley, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin Dublin, Ireland
Background/Question/Methods Conservation initiatives carried out by informed, enthusiastic participants can be highly effective for conserving biodiversity, including the biodiversity of insect pollinators. It is important to understand how the public perceives insect pollinators, as it may have implications for the success of conservation initiatives and the initiation of protective policies. Therefore, there is a need for more research on the socio-cultural aspects and public perceptions of insect pollinator ecology, decline, and conservation. We used Ireland as a case study to determine how insect pollinators, pollination services, and pollinator decline are currently perceived by the public in an effort to understand the links between public knowledge of pollination ecology and public perceptions of insect pollinators, the implementation of pollinator conservation actions, and engagement with existing conservation initiatives. We designed a survey that was distributed to the Irish public for three months, primarily through social media, and was taken by 613 participants. Results/Conclusions Findings indicate that people are aware of pollinator decline and of the main causes and are willing to participate in pollinator conservation, but that there are still some key gaps in the overall understanding of pollinators, their role, and their ecology. Most participants were able to identify charismatic pollinators, such as bumblebees and honeybees, and were aware of their importance to the pollination of crops and wildflowers. Fewer participants were able to identify other common pollinators, such as flies and solitary bees, and many were not aware of the importance of non-bee pollinators to pollination. Less than 50% of participants, particularly urban dwellers and those without post-secondary education, had heard of Ireland’s national pollinator conservation initiative. The knowledge gaps identified through this study imply that, despite a general interest and awareness of pollinator decline and conservation, the public views insect pollinators and pollination ecology through a relatively small scope. To ensure a more inclusive approach to pollinator conservation to preserve insect pollinators and their ecological function, we recommend that future engagement measures highlight the importance of underrepresented non-bee insects to pollination services and target certain demographic groups that are currently not as actively engaged in pollinator conservation as others.