Service Providing Protocols

As we have progressed along the spiral and clarified such concepts as ecosystem functions (EF), service providing units (SPUs), ecosystem service providers (ESPs), etc., it becomes obvious that end users are unlikely to change practices without further interpretation/guidance. There is therefore an urgent need for practical advice on how to translate these concepts into action.

The idea of a Service Providing Protocol (SPP) meets that need. It is basically a ‘recipe’ for farmers and other decision makers to put functional biodiversity into practice to deliver enhanced ecosystem services (ES). One key agroecological example is ‘beetle banks’. These were developed jointly by the University of Southampton and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, UK (Thomas et al. 1991). These banks are ‘ecological islands’ in European farmland on which predatory beetles and other biological control agents spend the winter. In spring, they emigrate from the banks into the field and contribute to the biological control of aphids and other pests (Collins et al. 2002). Beetle banks also act as refuges for rare farmland mammals and have become hunting territory for predatory birds such as owls. Further, the grey partridge (Perdix perdix L.), which populations have declined markedly in European farmland, nest in high densities on these banks. A clear SPP exists for establishing these banks.

A similar widely-used SPP is the establishment of strips of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench.) within vineyards. The abundant high-quality nectar provided by buckwheat flowers (Foti et al. 2017) improves the ecological ‘fitness’ of parasitic wasps which parasitise larvae of the light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana Walker). This SPP can lead to lower or nil pesticide use in vines in New Zealand, Australia and other world vineyard regions (see pages 25 and 26 in “Biodiversity on Farmland”).

A contrasting SPP concerns the beneficial soil fungi Trichoderma spp. A range of species and strains of this genus have been used commercially to improve the growth performance and disease resistance in a wide range of horticultural and other crops. The fungus enters the root as an endophyte and also colonises the root surface. In Malaysia, spectacular increases in disease resistance and growth rate in Acacia mangium Willd. seedlings have been achieved, leading to many fewer fungicide sprays and reduced costs (Stewart & Hill 2014). Similar results were achieved for the hybrid, sterile biofuel grass Miscanthus x giganteus (Chirino-Valle et al. 2016).

In kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa A. Chev.) in New Zealand, growth rate and yield have been improved by deploying a commercial product based on Trichoderma: see Kiwivax. This instruction leaflet includes a clear SPP for this product.

Examples of Service Providing Protocols:

Beetle bank protocol to promote arthropod refugia, covered by snow.


Chirino-Valle I, Kandula D, Littlejohn C, Hill R, Walker M, Shields M, Cummings N, Hettiarachchi D, Wratten S, 2016. Potential of the beneficial fungus Trichoderma to enhance ecosystem-service provision in the biofuel grass Miscanthus x giganteus in agriculture. Scientific Reports 6: 25109. DOI: 10.1038/srep25109

Collins K, Boatman N, Wilcox A, Holland J, Chaney, 2002. Influence of beetle banks on cereal aphid predation in winter wheat. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 93, 337–350.

Foti M, Rostás M, Peri E, Park K, Slimani T, Wratten S, Colazza S, 2017. Chemical ecology meets conservation biological control: Identifying plant volatiles as predictors of floral resource suitability for an egg parasitoid of stink bugs. J. Pest Sci. 90, 299-310.

Stewart A, Hill RA, 2014. Applications of Trichoderma in plant growth promotion. In Biotechnology and biology of Trichoderma. Gupta, V.K.; Schmoll, M.; Herrera-Estrella, A.; Upadhyay, R.S.; Druzhinina, I.; Tuohy, M.G. (Eds). Elsevier: the Netherlands, pp. 415-428

Thomas MB, Wratten SD, Sotherton NW, 1991. Creation of ‘island’ hábitats in farmland to manipulate populations of beneficial arthropods: predator densities and emigration. J. Appl. Ecol. 28, 906-917.