Kremen said the findings suggest that if farmers paid ranchers to stay on the land and maintain the habitat, the farmers would be increasing their sources of pollination and developing critical diversification to support their agricultural practices.

“We would never invest all of our retirement savings in just one stock, but this is essentially what farmers do when they rely solely on the European honeybee for pollination,” said Kremen. She said this is exactly what is occurring in California agriculture right now.

“Diversifying their monetary investment in pollinators to include wild, rangeland-dwelling species is the same idea as diversifying a stock portfolio,” she said, adding that the unpredictability associated with climate change amplifies the importance of diversification.

“Some insect species will thrive in changed climate conditions, and other won’t. Maintaining a biodiverse stock of pollinators is like the insurance that a diversified stock portfolio brings: some will be up, some will be down, but having a portfolio of many different species ensures viability into the future,” Kremen said.

Placing a value on ecosystem services is an established part of conservation science and helps scientists understand the contributions of various elements of an ecosystem and how they influence each other.

The UC Berkeley researchers estimated the current contribution of wild pollinators to California agriculture by integrating their knowledge of the relationship between natural habitat and wild pollination services with the added dimension of location-specific data.

“Essentially, we identified where wild pollinators were living in relation to crops. When we put it all on a map, we got a highly informative picture of how the pollinators could be impacting crop production,” Kremen said. She said they used data from the National Agriculture Statistics Service on crop production and value to help calculate the monetary value.