Bee decline could signal threat to global nutrition
Declines in populations of pollinators such as bees and wasps may be a key threat to nutrition in some of the most poorly fed parts of the globe, according to new research.
A major study, published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and co-authored by a University of Leeds academic, looked at the importance of pollinators to 115 of the most common food crops worldwide and the importance of those crops in delivering vital nutrients to vulnerable populations.
The research, the first to study the relationship between nutrition and pollination across the globe, found some regions where disruptions in pollination could have serious implications for human health.
Deficiencies in ‘micronutrients’—nutrients such as iron and vitamins that are required by the body in small quantities—are three times as prevalent where production of micronutrients is heavily dependent upon pollinators, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, India, and the Middle East.
In Southeast Asia and parts of Latin America, almost 50% of plant-derived vitamin A production relies on pollination.
Dr Becky Chaplin-Kramer, research associate at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the lead author of the study, said: "A disruption in pollination services certainly has a price-tag, estimates go as high as $390 billion annually, but the cost to our nutrition could be even greater."
“This means pollinator declines could hit hardest on the very people who can afford to lose the least in terms of nutrition,” she said.
The study was coordinated by the Natural Capital Project, a partnership between Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.