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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Design and Planning of a Transdisciplinary Investigation into Farmland Pollinators: Rationale, Co-Design, and Lessons Learned

Hodge, Simon; Schweiger, Oliver; Klein, Alexandra-Maria; Potts, Simon G.; Costa, Cecilia; Albrecht, Matthias; de Miranda, Joachim R.; Mand, Marika; De la Rua, Pilar; Rundlof, Maj; Attridge, Eleanor; Dean, Robin; Bulet, Philippe; Michez, Denis; Paxton, Robert J.; Babin, Aurelie; Cougoule, Nicolas; Laurent, Marion; Martel, Anne-Claire; Paris, Laurianne;
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To provide a complete portrayal of the multiple factors negatively impacting insects in agricultural landscapes it is necessary to assess the concurrent incidence, magnitude, and interactions among multiple stressors over substantial biogeographical scales. Trans-national ecological field investigations with wide-ranging stakeholders typically encounter numerous challenges during the design planning stages, not least that the scientific soundness of a spatially replicated study design must account for the substantial geographic and climatic variation among distant sites. 'PoshBee' (Pan-European assessment, monitoring, and mitigation of Stressors on the Health of Bees) is a multi-partner transdisciplinary agroecological project established to investigate the suite of stressors typically encountered by pollinating insects in European agricultural landscapes. To do this, PoshBee established a network of 128 study sites across eight European countries and collected over 50 measurements and samples relating to the nutritional, toxicological, pathogenic, and landscape components of the bees' environment. This paper describes the development process, rationale, and end-result of each aspect of the of the PoshBee field investigation. We describe the main issues and challenges encountered during the design stages and highlight a number of actions or processes that may benefit other multi-partner research consortia planning similar large-scale studies. It was soon identified that in a multi-component study design process, the development of interaction and communication networks involving all collaborators and stakeholders requires considerable time and resources. It was also necessary at each planning stage to be mindful of the needs and objectives of all stakeholders and partners, and further challenges inevitably arose when practical limitations, such as time restrictions and labour constraints, were superimposed upon prototype study designs. To promote clarity for all stakeholders, for each sub-component of the study, there should be a clear record of the rationale and reasoning that outlines how the final design transpired, what compromises were made, and how the requirements of different stakeholders were accomplished. Ultimately, multi-national agroecological field studies such as PoshBee benefit greatly from the involvement of diverse stakeholders and partners, ranging from field ecologists, project managers, policy legislators, mathematical modelers, and farmer organisations. While the execution of the study highlighted the advantages and benefits of large-scale transdisciplinary projects, the long planning period emphasized the need to formally describe a design framework that could facilitate the design process of future multi-partner collaborations.


bees; bee pathogens; insect declines; landscape ecology; pan-European; pesticides; pollinators

Published in

2022, volume: 14, number: 17, article number: 10549
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Hodge, Simon
Trinity College Dublin
Schweiger, Oliver
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Klein, Alexandra-Maria
University of Freiburg
Potts, Simon G.
University of Reading
Costa, Cecilia
CREA Res Ctr Agr and Environm
Albrecht, Matthias
Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Mand, Marika
Estonian University of Life Sciences
De la Rua, Pilar
University of Murcia
Rundlof, Maj
Lund University
Attridge, Eleanor
The Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Associations
Dean, Robin
Red Beehive
Bulet, Philippe
The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)
Michez, Denis
University of Mons
Paxton, Robert J.
Martin Luther University Halle Wittenberg
Babin, Aurelie
Laboratoire de Sophia-Antipolis
Cougoule, Nicolas
Agence Nationale de Securite Sanitaire de l'Alimentation, de l'Environnement du Travail (ANSES)
Laurent, Marion
Agence Nationale de Securite Sanitaire de l'Alimentation, de l'Environnement du Travail (ANSES)
Martel, Anne-Claire
Agence Nationale de Securite Sanitaire de l'Alimentation, de l'Environnement du Travail (ANSES)
Paris, Laurianne
Agence Nationale de Securite Sanitaire de l'Alimentation, de l'Environnement du Travail (ANSES)
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UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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