The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2021-2025: an ambitious new plan to save our bees

The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2021-2025 was launched today [see www.pollinators.ie] as the incredibly successful project moved into its second phase.

The plan provides a new five-year roadmap to help bees, other pollinating insects, and our wider biodiversity – and promises to engage more stakeholders and address more specific actions.

Jane Stout, Professor in Botany at Trinity, and an expert in pollination with over 20 years research experience in the field, has been at the heart of the project since its inception.

Professor Stout has produced much of the research evidence that has pinpointed the worrying declines of Irish pollinators, as well as underlining their economic value to the country. Much of this evidence has been key in guiding policy and ensuring Ireland is leading the way in this area of research.

Thanks to her work and ongoing involvement as a co-chair of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan (AIPP) steering group, Trinity was the first third level institution to have its own specific campus pollinator plan.

Professor Jane Stout, with Juanita Browne and Dr Una Fitzpatrick, all of whom continue to play key roles in the development of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.

Professor Stout, from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, said:

“We are proud that Ireland was one of the first countries in Europe to address pollinator declines and are excited by the scope of this second phase of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan. This plan promises to build on a huge number of initial successes and make us world-leaders in reversing pollinator declines, increasing food sustainability, boosting the health of our environment, and reducing economic agricultural losses.”

At the conclusion of the first All-Ireland Pollinator Plan (AIPP), which was launched in 2015, all 81 actions had been taken, with success driven by nationwide engagement from beekeepers, gardeners, students, farmers, business owners and countless other groups.

This time, the new plan will more than double its goals – with 186 actions listed. The overarching message is clear: a lot has been done, but there is more to do.

What’s on the horizon?

In the next phase, the AIPP will encourage the restoration of more land for pollinators and other biodiversity; improve awareness of how farmers can help; encourage more councils to manage their land in a way that better integrates people and biodiversity; and help new sectors to get involved, such as hospitals and nursing homes.

Additionally, there will be a greater focus on helping rare species that are at risk of disappearing, like the Great Yellow Bumblebee; growing and supporting the networks of people helping across all sectors; encouraging more people to pledge their gardens for pollinators; and engaging more widely and with new audiences.

The second phase of the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan will create greater engagement than ever with mutliple stakeholders to protect our bees and our wider biodiversity.

Professor Stout added:

“We will try to better explain how helping pollinators brings much wider benefits, particularly to our own health and wellbeing. With that in mind, we look forward to establishing a ‘Pollinator Trail’ that identifies and celebrates excellent examples of restored pollinator habitat right across the island.

“We will also put a lot of effort into restoring biodiversity across farmed, natural and urban landscapes, as this is crucial for sustainable livelihoods and humanity’s wellbeing. Actions to protect pollinators across all these landscapes, as outlined in the Plan, can help restore other elements of biodiversity, and result in multiple benefits for nature and for people.

“For example, pollinators are important for maintaining plant populations that sequester carbon, and protect against flooding, and some pollinators help control pest populations and recycle waste. And, ultimately, pollinators help to ensure the people of Ireland have healthy natural systems to enjoy, which promotes our mental and physical health.”

The need for permanent change

We don’t want this to be a short-term, ‘trendy’ initiative. It is about fully normalising a better way of managing our whole landscape to permanently support our struggling biodiversity,” said Dr Úna FitzPatrick from the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

Dr Fitzpatrick, a Trinity alumna, chairs the AIPP steering group and oversees its implementation.

We know that for the Plan to continue to be successful, it needs to be built on trust in the experts running the programme; acknowledgement of all the efforts being made; and clear demonstrations that the actions we are taking together are making a difference and are having a positive impact.”

A Plan built on Partnerships

The responsibility for delivering the 186 actions contained in the new AIPP is shared out between 64 partner organisations, which include the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine; Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Heritage Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service; Bord Bía; Northern Ireland Environment Agency; Office of Public Works; GAA; An Taisce Green-Schools; Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations; Transport Infrastructure Ireland; National Trust; RSPB; Teagasc; Tidy Towns; Translink; Ulster Farmers’ Union.

The Plan does not have a project budget. Instead, those organisations that have committed to actions have agreed to fund those actions themselves.

Dr Fitzpatrick added:

“Having so many organisations voluntarily sign up to this new Plan signifies its importance, and that the will is there to make it succeed. As we look forward to the next five years, we thank everyone who has already engaged. It has shown that by working together we can make changes for the better.”