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Global Food Security Threat: Pollinators are Disappearing at a Faster Pace, Why?

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi
Pollinators are at Risk!!

We all know that plants depend on pollination. About 90 per cent of wild flowering plants need pollinators like bees, wasps, flies etc to transmit pollen for successful sexual reproduction. In return, these plants plays vital role in the functioning of entire ecosystem. They provide food, form habitats along with a wide range of other resources for many animal species. That's why, Pollinators play an important role in regulating ecosystem services by supporting Food Production, Habitats & Natural Resources. 

Research Findings: 

Dr Lynn Dicks from Cambridge's Department of Zoology with a  20-strong team of Scientists and Indigenous Representatives to attempt an initial evaluation of the drivers and threats for pollinator declines globally. This research is published in 'Nature Ecology & Evolution'. 

As per research, disappearing habitats & extensive use of pesticides are driving the loss of pollinator species around the globe, posing a risk to 'Ecosystem Services' that deliver food and well-being to many millions-mainly in the Global South-as well as billions of dollars in crop productivity. 

The bees, wasps, butterflies, beetles, bats, flies & hummingbirds that spread and distribute pollen, vital for the reproduction of over 75% of food crops and flowering plants including coffee, rapeseed and most fruits are visibly declining the globally, yet little is known of the consequences for human populations. 

"What happens to pollinators could have huge knock-on effects for humanity," said Dr Lynn. "These small creatures play central roles in the world's ecosystems, including many that humans and other animals rely on for nutrition. If they go, we may be in serious trouble," she added.   

Major Causes of Decline:  

  • The top three global causes of pollinator loss ,asper the study, are below: 

  • Habitat Destruction

  • Land Management (primarily the grazing, fertilizers & crop monoculture of farming)

  • Widespread Pesticide Use 

The effect of Climate Change comes in at number four, although data are limited. Perhaps the biggest direct risk to humans across the world is "Crop Pollination Deficit":Falls in Quantity and Quality of Food and Biofuel Crops. Experts ranked the risk of crop yield "instability" as serious or high across two-thirds of the planet-from Africa to Latin America, where many depend directly on pollinated crops through small-holder farming. 

"Crops dependent on pollinators fluctuate more in yield than, for example, cereals," said Dicks. "Increasingly unusual climatic phenomena, such as extreme rainfall and temperature, are already affecting crops. Pollinator loss adds further instability - it's the last thing people need." 

Declined species diversity was considered as a high-ranking global risk to humans, which not only endanger food security but a loss of "Aesthetic and Cultural Value". These species have been emblems of nature for centuries, and too little consideration is given to how their declines affect human well-being. 

"Pollinators have been sources of inspiration for art, music, literature and technology since the dawn of human history," said Dicks. "All the major world religions have sacred passages about bees. When tragedy struck Manchester in 2017, people reached for bees as a symbol of community strength." 

"Pollinators are often the most immediate representatives of the natural world in our daily lives. These are the creatures that captivate us early in life. We notice and feel their loss. Where are the clouds of butterflies in the late summer garden, or the myriad moths fluttering in through open windows at night?" 

"We are in the midst of a species extinction crisis, but for many people that is intangible. Perhaps pollinators are the bellwether of mass extinction," said Dicks. 

Loss of access to "Managed Pollinators" such as industrial beehives was ranked as a high risk to North American society, where they boost crops including apples and almonds, and have suffered serious declines from disease and 'colony collapse disorder'. 

Most Affected Regions: 

In fact, Latin America was viewed as the region with most to lose. Insect-pollinated crops such as cashew, soybean, coffee and cocoa are essential to regional food supply and international trade right across the continent. It is also home to large indigenous populations reliant on pollinated plants, with pollinator species such as hummingbirds embedded in oral culture and history. 

Asia Pacific was another global region where pollinator decline was perceived to pose serious risks to human well-being. China and India are increasingly reliant on fruit and vegetable crops that need pollinators, some of which now require people to pollinate by hand. 

The researchers caution that not enough is known about the state of pollinator populations in the Global South, as evidence of decline is still primarily from wealthy regions such as Europe (where at least 37% of bee and 31% of butterfly species are in decline). Pollination deficits and biodiversity loss were seen as the biggest risks to Europeans, with potential to affect crops ranging from strawberries to oilseed rape. 

Dr Tom Breeze, co-author and Ecological Economics Research Fellow at the University of Reading, said: "This study highlights just how much we still don't know about pollinator decline and the impacts this has on human societies, particularly in parts of the developing world". 

"While we have data on how pollinators are doing in regions like Europe, there are significant knowledge gaps in many others. More research is needed on a global level so we can really understand the problems we face, and how we might address them." 

(Source: University of Cambridge) 

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