New climate change adaptation project in Uzbekistan focuses on pollinators

Date: 20.05.2013.

Wild pollinators are important for climate change adaptation of agro-ecosystems. Photo by Toshpulat Rajabov.

Climate change poses one of the most severe risks to pollinators. But they, specifically wild pollinators, are indispensable for agricultural production of most high-value crops, for 60-90% of all plant species, and for climate change adaptation of agro-ecosystems. This is because cross-pollination increases genetic diversity and thus promotes adaptation of plant species and ecosystem resilience to future climate.

As seasonal weather abnormalities are set to increase, and considering that honeybees can fly only if weather conditions are fine, future horticulture production might depend on, for instance, bumblebees, which are more robust to rough weather conditions than honeybees. But besides climate change, wild pollinators are also threatened by agricultural practices (monocultures, landscape fragmentation, chemicals, tillage etc.). Wild pollinators do not fly far from their nests, only 300-2000 m (whereas honeybees fly up to 5 km). That is why they need nesting areas, forage (flowers producing nectar and pollen during three seasons) and shelter in or close to the field.

Such habitat enhancement is not costly. But it does require some additional work and experience. Moreover, improved pollination can increase the yield in economic terms. So there is a potential win-win situation for farmers and the environment.

Resource-poor farmers in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change as they depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. This is also true for Central Asian countries. And helping rural farmers is a priority for international research and donor organizations.

In keeping with its goals, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) has launched a new project in Uzbekistan, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety under the International Climate Change Initiative. The project is implemented from 15 March 2013 till 31 December 2013, and involves ICARDA's national partners such as the Institute of Zoology; the Samarkand State University; and the Uzbek Scientific Research Institute of Vegetables, Cucurbits and Potato.

According to Dr Stefanie Christmann, of ICARDA, the project is aimed at introducing the practice of "Farming with alternative pollinators (FAP)" to Uzbekistan (Christmann, S. and Aw-Hassan, A. 2012. Farming with alternative pollinators (FAP) - An overlooked win-win-strategy for climate change adaptation: in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 161 (2012) pp.161- 164), which includes habitat enhancement, economic assessment of the total harvest and assessment of pollinator biodiversity. The project will target two main crops - cucumber in Parkent area and cherry in Surkhandarya Region (Boysun district and Termez). Researchers will also gather field data (economic effect, effect on pollinator diversity, outscaling options) to support broad introduction of this new socioeconomic and agro-ecological method.

If successful, this project has potential to help solve similar problems in other Central Asian countries, in the dry areas of other countries, and even worldwide as the risks to pollinators are a global concern.

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