Crop Pollinators Very Important, and in Trouble

January 31, 2007

 Agricultural production is under threat from many sources, including climate change, population increases, urban sprawl, and soil depletion. Emerging evidence suggests another nemesis should be up there on the priority list - a significant decline in the animals that pollinate crops (bees, insects, birds, bats, etc.).

An international team of researchers has published what it calls the first comprehensive worldwide assessment of the dependency of agricultural crops on animal pollinators. They found that about three-fourths of all crops, and more than one-third of all crop production, are dependent on animal pollination to some degree. They also found that agricultural intensification, such as growing a single crop over a broad area, threatens wild bees, an important animal pollinator.

The study is published by the UK's Royal Society (analogous to the US National Academies) in its Feb. 7, 2007, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, "Importance of Pollinators in Changing Landscapes for World Crops" (scroll down to second-last journal).

This study comes on the heels of an Oct. 18, 2006, National Academies National Research Council report, "Status of Pollinators in North America", which found that populations of animal pollinators in North America and around the world are showing a significant downward trend (release and report).

  • One example of media coverage: Jan. 6, 2007, Science News article by Susan Milius ("Most Bees Live Alone").
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