Over 70 experts from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have recently co-authored a comprehensive report on the state of pollinators worldwide and the measures governments could take to secure their survival.
U.N. researchers found that worldwide pollinators including bees, bats, birds, and butterflies are more or less threatened with extinction. For instance, to date many governments have put up to 40 percent of bee species on endangered species lists, although the figures may be even higher.
The IPBES report is unique because until now most studies have focused on the health of pollinators in a specific area such as a country or region of the world. So, the latest report is the first attempt to assess pollinator health on a global scale and the impact on the security of our food supply.
Scientists started their work in 2014, and based their findings on up-to-date data provided by governments and local communities. According to the report, pollinator populations are on decline across the planet. Declining trends have been observed in both wild and managed populations (honeybees are the most common group of managed pollinators).
The report also found that some pollinators face extinction because of various causes. But fortunately, there is still something we can do to protect them, the report concluded.
Additionally, IPBES researchers underscored the importance of all pollinators for the security of world’s food supply. In short, about 90 percent of flowering species need pollinators to survive. Of these species, 75 percent are food crops.
U.N. scientists explained that it is critical to keep pollinator populations safe as the human population grows larger. According to the report, in the last half a century alone the amount of crops that rely on pollination jumped by nearly 300 percent. Plus, there are crops that cannot do without pollination, and our diets heavily depend on them: apples, coffee, almonds, and cocoa.
The IPBES team also found that 16 percent of bat and bird species are currently threatened. But the study couldn’t assess the situation of all insect species because global data on them is scarce or inconsistent. From regional data, scientists concluded that insects too face a relatively high risk of extinction in many parts of the planet. The largest declines were noticed in wild bee and butterfly species, but half of wild bee species in Europe couldn’t be assessed.
Moreover, the report showed that managed pollinators are also threatened. Though the number of honeybee hives doubled in recent years, honeybee colonies in Europe and U.S. face massive die-offs due to a mysterious phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.
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