Forests are critically important to global pollinator diversity and enhance pollination in adjacent crops

Michael Ulyshen, Katherine R. Urban-Mead, James B. Dorey, James W. Rivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Although the importance of natural habitats to pollinator diversity is widely recognized, the value of forests to pollinating insects has been largely overlooked in many parts of the world. In this review, we (i) establish the importance of forests to global pollinator diversity, (ii) explore the relationship between forest cover and pollinator diversity in mixed-use landscapes, and (iii) highlight the contributions of forest-associated pollinators to pollination in adjacent crops. The literature shows unambiguously that native forests support a large number of forest-dependent species and are thus critically important to global pollinator diversity. Many pollinator taxa require or benefit greatly from resources that are restricted to forests, such as floral resources provided by forest plants (including wind-pollinated trees), dead wood for nesting, tree resins, and various non-floral sugar sources (e.g. honeydew). Although landscape-scale studies generally support the conclusion that forests enhance pollinator diversity, findings are often complicated by spatial scale, focal taxa, landscape context, temporal context, forest type, disturbance history, and external stressors. While some forest loss can be beneficial to pollinators by enhancing habitat complementarity, too much can result in the near-elimination of forest-associated species. There is strong evidence from studies of multiple crop types that forest cover can substantially increase yields in adjacent habitats, at least within the foraging ranges of the pollinators involved. The literature also suggests that forests may have enhanced importance to pollinators in the future given their role in mitigating the negative effects of pesticides and climate change. Many questions remain about the amount and configuration of forest cover required to promote the diversity of forest-associated pollinators and their services within forests and in neighbouring habitats. However, it is clear from the current body of knowledge that any effort to preserve native woody habitats, including the protection of individual trees, will benefit pollinating insects and help maintain the critical services they provide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1118-1141
Number of pages24
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number4
Early online date6 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • agriculture
  • Anthophila
  • bees
  • deforestation
  • ecosystem services
  • hover flies
  • Syrphidae


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