Uncertainties in the value and opportunity costs of pollination services

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Pollination is an ecosystem service that directly contributes to agricultural production, and can therefore provide a strong incentive to conserve natural habitats that support pollinator populations. However, we have yet to provide consistent and convincing pollination service valuations to effectively slow the conversion of natural habitats.

We use coffee in Kodagu, India, to illustrate the uncertainties involved in estimating costs and benefits of pollination services. First, we fully account for the benefits obtained by coffee agroforests that are attributable to pollination from wild bees nesting in forest habitats. Second, we compare these benefits to the opportunity cost of conserving forest habitats and forgoing conversion to coffee production. Throughout, we systematically quantify the uncertainties in our accounting exercise and identify the parameters that contribute most to uncertainty in pollination service valuation.

We find the value of pollination services provided by one hectare of forest to be 25% lower than the profits obtained from converting that same surface to coffee production using average values for all parameters. However, our results show this value is not robust to moderate uncertainty in parameter values, particularly that driven by variability in pollinator density.

Synthesis and applications. Our findings emphasize the need to develop robust estimates of both value and opportunity costs of pollination services that take into account landscape and management variables. Our analysis contributes to strengthening pollination service arguments used to help stakeholders make informed decisions on land use and conservation practices.

Magrach, A.; Champetier, A.; Krishnan, S.; Boreux, V.; Ghazoul, J.

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