Tuesday, March 8, 2016

2239. 40% of Pollinating Insect Species Are at Risk for Extinction

By Kevin Mathews, Care2, February 27, 2016

Do we have enough food? There’s already been a lot of concern over whether people will be able to feed themselves as the population continues to rise. Forget the human population increasing, though – it’s the decrease in some other species that might really cause a food shortage even more quickly: pollinators.

Altogether, the scientific community credits 200,000 different species with transporting pollen and helping crops to grow. Unfortunately, new research finds that 40 percent of the world’s insect pollinator species are in danger of going extinct in the upcoming decades. Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, ants and beetles all play a role in the critical pollination process, and their numbers are dwindling. While pollinators with vertebrae – like birds and bats – may not be struggling quite as much as the bugs, 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are considered at risk for extinction as well.

hese figures come from research by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a group with ties to the United Nations. The organization’s report collected data from roughly 3,000 preexisting studies on pollinator populations that were conducted throughout the world.

In fairness, the majority of the research on this subject has focused on species in Europe and North America. Though the existing research in other parts of the worlds isn’t promising either, it’s a subject that will need to be explored more before declaring that the whole world is imminently doomed.

Sadly, ending the pollinator decline isn’t as easy as fixing one thing. Pollinators face a number of threats including:

Climate change
Invasive species
Unsustainable farming practices
Human construction destroying natural habitat

Losing pollinators to these factors could be devastating. Presently, pollinators play a role in growing as much as $577 billion worth of food. 75 percent of all crops are grown with the help of pollinators.

From an economical standpoint, this pollinator decline should be a major concern for big agriculture. When it comes to growing crops, birds and insects essentially act as free labor, an invaluable asset that corporations don’t always factor into future costs. When these companies use harmful pesticides and engage in irresponsible farming practices that are correlated to pollinator declines, they aren’t ultimately doing themselves any favors.

Rather than just focusing on the negatives, the report makes a point to outline some of the steps humans can take to intervene on these pollinator declines. The top two recommendations the researchers offer are diversifying the kinds of crops humans grow and prioritizing sustainable agriculture.

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