Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A bee pollinates an blossom in the almond orchard on Paramount Farms in McFarland, Calif. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture/flickr/cc)

New Report Issues Dire Warning About Global Decline in Pollinators

'Their health is directly linked to our own well-being.'

Andrea Germanos

Pollinators worldwide, from bees and butterflies to beetles and bats, are facing a grim state of affairs.

Factors such climate change and land use changes are driving many pollinator species—including 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators—towards extinction. For invertebrate pollinators like bees and butterflies, over 40 percent of species may be be threatened locally, a new report shows.

And this all adds up to very bad news for humans, the report details, as it poses risks to the global food supply.

The assessment released Friday is from the four-year-old Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a UN-formed body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPBES came to its first ever analysis based on a body of existing scientific studies.

"Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security," said Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, co-chair of the assessment and senior professor at the University of São Paulo. "Their health is directly linked to our own well-being."

Describing their critical role, IPBES says that three-quarters of the "leading types of global food crops" rely at least in part on pollination by some of the 20,000 species of wild bees or other pollinators. In terms of monetary impact, that translates to as much as $577 billion worth of annual global food production.

"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," said Simon Potts, Ph.D., the other co-chair and professor of biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at the University of Reading in the UK.

In addition to climate change and land use changes, the report also cites the decline of practices based on indigenous and local knowledge and insecticides like neonicotinoids as contributing to pollinators' decline.

 



Among the strategies to protect pollinators suggest entail promoting sustainable agriculture, including reducing exposure to pesticides and bumping up diversity in pollinator habitats.

As far as a real impact from the group's report, Dave Goulson, author, bumblebee expert, and professor of biology at the University of Sussex, is skeptical.

"I would question whether any practical on-the-ground action to help pollinators will happen as a result of this document. We are in the midst of the sixth global mass-extinction event, and we sit around spending thousands of hours writing documents about biodiversity, but we do not take action to address the fundamental issues that are causing this ecological catastrophe," Nature reports him as saying.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Eliminating Nuclear Weapons 'Is Not Only Possible, It Is Necessary': UN Chief

"At a moment of rising geopolitical division, mistrust, and outright aggression, we are in danger of forgetting the terrible lessons of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Cold War, and inciting a humanitarian Armageddon," warns António Guterres.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Huge Victory': Starbucks Agrees to Begin Contract Talks With 230+ Union Stores

"We've been ready to bargain since day one," said one union leader, "but now we're operating together on a national level to make sure all of our voices are heard, together."

Jake Johnson ·


On Eve of Senate Vote, Activists Make Last 'Big Push' Against Manchin 'Dirty Deal'

"Our elected congressional representatives cannot bless a backroom deal brokered by fossil fuel industry lobbyists that promises untold damage to American communities like mine," said one frontline activist.

Brett Wilkins ·


'We Aren't Going to War': Draft Officer Shot Amid Russian Anger Over Conscription

A 25-year-old reportedly opened fire at a military recruitment office in Irkutsk after his best friend received draft papers.

Julia Conley ·


80+ Democrats Urge Biden EPA to Accept Union Demands

"Improving the rights and protections of EPA employees" will help the agency "address climate change, enhance environmental justice, and protect public health and the environment," the lawmakers wrote.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo