How to use QUICK INDEX Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

You are here: Home > Ecosystem Services > Pollination


The pollination of plant species (e.g. agricultural and horticultural crops).


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Service Category

Regulating Services


What is pollination and how is it derived?

The natural pollination of agricultural crops is a direct benefit to land managers. This service indirectly benefits the community by keeping the cost of food production low and therefore moderating food costs at the supermarket.

Pollination is critical to the reproduction of most wild plants and the production of food for consumption by animals and humans. Plants benefit most from pollination by out-crossing with other plants to maintain genetic diversity in the seeds produced. This contributes to the resilience of an ecosystem and its capacity to continue to perform its functions and provide continuous benefits to us as humans.

The nursery industry benefits from the harvest of seeds and fruit associated with maturing of the embryo, and the seeds are used in propagation. Pollination reduces costs associated with growing food for human benefits. Effective pollination maximises fruit or seed set required for subsequent harvest of fruit or seeds. Seeds harvested may be used in their natural form as food products, ground for flour or fed to livestock and poultry; grass seeds are propagated and sown for pasture improvement. The pollination of pasture species, particularly legumes, is required to sustain pasture improvements.

Table 1 shows the magnitude different ecosystem functions contribute to the service pollination (relative to other ecosystem functions). Supporting habitats provide refuges for nesting and roosting, refuges from pesticide applications, shade and shelter and alternative food sources when crops are not in flower. Biotic pollinators colonise natural ecosystems, near to, or at some distance from crops and agricultural lands. Few pollinators breed in crop and pastures and most are dependent on nearby refuges for reproduction. Some pollinators that have specific habitats for reproduction, are unable to colonise disturbed ecosystems and need rehabilitation of habitats. Most pollinators are bees and up to 68 species of native bees have been recorded from a single natural landscape adjoining a cropping system in SEQ. Genetic resources are maintain plant and pollinator genetic and species diversity.

Climate regulation is an important ecosystem function to the provision of this service. Changes in climate can affect changes in habitats and micro-climates change biodiversity (species composition, interactions and competition for resources). Climate change is likely to affect the range of pollinator species through changes in flowering times, flower or nectar abundance, loss of tree cover and natural breeding sites and associated flower/pollinator composition & compatibility. Water regulation is important for abiotic pollination of plant species. 

Maintaining natural biological control is particularly important to the pollination of agricultural crops as it maintains populations of animals that may also attack crops. Some biological control agents are prey to the predators of pollinators thus reducing the chance of predatory attack. Pollen and nectar provide a direct food source for animals as well as food products for human consumption (e.g. honey). 


Table 1:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem functions) each ecosystem function contributes to Pollination.

Ecosystem Function Category Ecosystem Function 0
Regulating Functions
Gas Regulation

Climate Regulation

Disturbance Regulation

Water Regulation

Soil Retention

Nutrient Regulation

Waste Treatment and Assimilation


Biological Control

Barrier Effect of Vegetation

Supporting Functions
Supporting Habitats

Soil Formation

Provisioning Functions

Raw Materials

Water Supply

Genetic Resources

Provision of Shade and Shelter

Pharmacological Resources

Cultural Functions
Landscape Opportunity



Using the 'buzz' pollination technique, the Blue Banded Bee is an ideal pollinator for crops such as kiwi fruit, tomatoes, eggplants and chillies.

Humans have no ability to artificially pollinate all plant species across SEQ (or the world). Without pollinators there would be no natural regeneration of ecosystems and most agricultural crops would fail to set seed and all horticultural crops would fail to develop fruit (unless they are self-pollinating). All relevant industries are then unable to benefit from harvest and critically-important food sources for people and livestock become uneconomical or are lost. In small areas people can apply techniques to pollinate their gardens and crops (e.g. backyard famers often pollinate crops with a cotton bud), however there is no substitute for natural pollination over large areas. 


Are there any barriers to people receiving this ecosystem service and its benefits?

The greatest barrier to receiving the service pollination is the loss of biotic pollinator species. The distance between supporting habitats and urban, cultivated and natural ecosystems benefiting from this service could limit the range and amount of pollinator species visiting the area. Areas located close to cultivated ecosystems using high levels of pesticides, growing monocultures or urban areas with large amounts of land clearing could also be limited to the amount of pollination being received.

This ecosystem service provides many benefits that contribute both directly and indirectly to the well-being of the SEQ community. The Constituents of Well-being this ecosystem service contributes to are presented in Table 2 below. Further information on these constituents and how ecosystem services contribute to them can be obtained  by clicking on the links in the table.


Table 2:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem services) Pollination contributes to each constituent of well-being.

Well-being Category Constituent of Well-being 0
Physical Health            
Mental Health            
Secure and Continuous Supply of Services            
Security of Person            
Security of Health            
Secure Access to Services            
Security of Property            
Good Social Relations
Family Cohesion            
Community and Social Cohesion            
Freedom of Choice and Action
Social and Economic Freedom            
Self Actualisation            




Wasps are obligatory pollinators of many native and commercial orchids.

Sticky traps detect the presence and abundance of pollinator species.

Links to other publications and websites

CSIRO - Pest threat to pollinators
Pollinators and Food Crop Production
List of crops pollinated by bees
Pollination Ecosystem Services
UN - Importance of Bees
Poliination - Sust. Agriculture

Efficient and effective pollination is monitored by the apparency (presence and absence) of pollinator species, and the quantity and value of a product following seed set and fruit development. Most agricultural pollinators are honeybees, but in addition, native species of pollinators can be identified, their effectiveness monitored in the crop, and the abundance, mobility, breeding and nesting sites can be evaluated in surrounding landscapes.

Other insect groups (beetles, wasps, flies ants) are also important pollinators of crops and are sometimes known to be specific to plant groups, for example, certain flies are important pollinators of native laurels (Cryptocarya spp.) and wasps are obligatory pollinators of some orchids. Sticky traps and other traps can be useful for determining their identities, presence or abundance. 


How is this ecosystem service currently managed in SEQ?

There are no current mechanisms or institutions that directly focus on managing natural pollinators. However domestic and professional beekeeping makes a significant contribution to the provision of this service and is becoming increasingly popular in towns and cities throughout Queensland with over 3,000 households registering hives. It is a requirement under the Apiaries Act 1982 to be registered as a beekeeper with the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI).  The Apiaries Act 1982 also allows appointed government apiary officers to remove troublesome hives or apiaries. Biosecurity Queensland within DEEDI has developed Guidelines for keeping bees in Queensland.  The purpose of these guidelines is to form a reference and standard for the management of beekeeping in Queensland by providing:

- a minimum standard to which beekeepers should comply
- community confidence in the safety of beekeeping activities
- a guide for the prevention and resolution of complaints
- the prescription for harmonious cooperation between beekeepers and other land occupiers and ensuring that the keeping of honey bees does not have a negative impact on people, property, domestic animals or native flora and fauna.

Access to state forests and plantations for the purpose of commercial honey production is regulated by the Department of Environment and heritage Protection through DERM Forest Products.  Access to these lands is either by regulatory signage or through specific permits. The permit system ensures the management of these areas and their use is ecologically sustainable. Permits are required for national park and State forest land so that managers and planners can regulate aspects of where, what and when activities occur, and to what extent. In addition under the South East Queensland Forests Agreement, many State forests, along with apiary sites within these forests, are managed by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service in the Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing.