Bees, Bats, Butterflies, Pollinators: New Report Says More Species in Danger; Food Supply Risked

Feb 26, 2016 02:40 PM EST

An unprecedented report on the risks to pollinators (birds, bats, and bees, for instance) is being presented at the The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a gathering of nearly 100 world governments in Kuala Lumpur.

Those delegates are meeting to discuss the vital need to preserve the animal pollinators that make possible the world's plants and crops, driving people's livelihoods and food sources.

The report was put together over two years by more than 77 international scientists including University of Cambridge's Dr. Lynn Dicks.

IPBES has never issued such an assessment, and it includes input from scientific, indigenous and local knowledge systems. The analysis highlights animal pollinator threats as well as the implications for the world's economy and food supply for those species to decline.

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"Without pollinators, many of us would not be able to enjoy chocolate, coffee and vanilla ice cream, or healthy foods like blueberries and brazil nuts. The value of pollinators goes way beyond this. People's livelihoods and culture are intimately linked with pollinators around the world. All the major world religions have sacred passages that mention bees," noted Dicks from Cambridge in a release.

Over the past 50 years, the world's supply of pollinator-dependent food has ramped up by 300 percent. Most fruits, from avocados to apples; coffee; cocoa; cashews and other nuts all depend on pollinators.

Currently, crops that rely on pollinators take up about 35 percent of all agricultural land worldwide. Between 5 and 8 percent of all production of global crops is attributable to animal pollinators, adding up to a market value each year of perhaps $577 USD, according to the release.

Pollinators are declining across North America and Europe partly because of many agricultural practices, including the use of neonicotinoids and other pesticides. Populations are falling by at least 37 percent for bees and 31 percent for butterflies, the release confirmed. Much data is lacking for Asia, Africa and Latin America, too. In areas where "red lists" exist, those show possibilities of 50 percent of global bee species under threat of extinction.

"Planting flowers that pollinators use for food, or looking after their habitats in urban and rural areas, will help. Everyone should also think carefully about whether they need to use insecticides and herbicides in their own gardens," said Dicks in the release.

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