Pollinators Vital to Our Food Supply Under Threat

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Bee contributing to pollination.
11/03/2016
Pollinators Vital to Our Food Supply Under Threat
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The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) presented its first assessment on Pollinators. The study shows that a growing number of pollinator species worldwide are being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures and highlights a number of ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) was founded four years ago (currently with 124 member nations) to assesses the state of the world’s biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to society, in response to requests from decision makers. On February 26, IPBES released its first assessment on Pollinators, Pollination and Food production at its fourth Plenary Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (22-28th February 2016).

The study, involving 77 experts and based on 3000 studies, shows that a growing number of pollinator species worldwide are being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made, threatening millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies. However, the assessment and its summary for policymakers also highlight a number of ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

Pollinators

There are more than 20.000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that contribute to pollination. Pollinated crops include those that provide fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils. Many of these are important dietary sources of vitamins and minerals, without which the risks of malnutrition might be expected to increase. Several crops also represent an important source of income in developing countries from, for example, the production of coffee and cocoa. Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives!

While gaps remain in our knowledge of pollinators, we now have more than enough evidence to act. For example, the assessment found that pesticides threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown. The good news is that a number of steps can be taken to reduce the risks to pollinators. The safeguards include the promotion of sustainable agriculture, which helps diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production. 

This very first assessment issued by IPBES, which has major implications for the global food supply, is a groundbreaking effort to better understand and manage a critical element of the global ecosystem. You can find more information in the official IPBES Press Release.

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