The population of bees and other pollinators is declining rapidly, posing a direct threat to global food supply. According to a new report released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) of the United Nations, many wild bees, butterflies, beetles, and bats are declining in diversity, abundance and occurrence in Europe and North America.
What are the biggest threats to pollinators?
Released on Friday, it was the IPBES’ first global assessment of pollinators. Other parts of the world have also witnessed a decline, but the situation could not be fully analyzed in Asia, Africa and Latin America due to “data gap.” Pesticides, habitat loss, pollution, climate change, pathogens, and invasive species are biggest threats to bees and other creatures that fertilize flowers by spreading pollen.
Though the report did not declare a full-scale threat to global food supplies, it stressed the need for protecting pollinators to ensure stable output of fruits and vegetables as the global population continues to grow. Zakri Abdul Hamid, chair of the 124-nation report, said animal pollination is critical to human health and global economy. Plants that rely on pollination make up to 35% of worldwide crop production volume. Hamid said about $577 billion worth of food output at market prices depended on pollinators.
Pollination-dependent farm output rises 300%
Pollinators also help create millions of jobs by playing a critical role in the agricultural system. The western honey bee produces 1.6 million tons of honey every year. The assessment by about 80 scientists from across the globe says the amount of farm output dependent on pollination has skyrocketed by 300% in the last 50 years. Pollinator-dependent species include fruits, vegetables, seed, nut and oil crops that supply nutrients in the human diet.
In Europe, the populations of 31% of butterfly species and 37% of bee species are declining, while 9% of bee and butterfly species are on the verge of extinction. Among non-insect pollinators such as birds and bats, 16% of all the species around the world face the threat of extinction, says IPBES.