The global decline of pollinators refers to the ongoing reduction in the populations of various species of animals that facilitate pollination, such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bats. Pollinators play a crucial role in the ecosystem by transferring pollen from male to female plant parts, which is essential for the reproduction and survival of many plant species. In fact, it is estimated that around 75% of the world's food crops depend on pollinators for their survival.
Insect populations in Europe have been experiencing a significant decline in recent years, with some estimates suggesting that they have declined by up to 80% in the last few decades. This decline has been observed in a wide range of insect species, including bees, butterflies, moths, and beetles. This decline in insect numbers is a cause for concern, as insects play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.
Insufficient pollination, which has been linked to the decline of pollinating animals, particularly insects, can have a significant impact on the production of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In fact, inadequate pollination has led to a 3-5% loss of fruit, vegetable, and nut production and an estimated 427,000 excess deaths annually from lost healthy food consumption and associated diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers, according to research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. According to this research, the impact of pollinator loss on health is already comparable in scale to other major global health risk factors, such as prostate cancer or substance use disorders. Another consequence found in this research is that the inadequate pollination and reduced yields have resulted in a substantial loss of agricultural income in lower-income countries, which could amount to 10-30% of their overall agricultural value.
This decline can be attributed to several factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and disease. These factors can have a significant impact on pollinators' health and ability to carry out their essential role in the ecosystem. For example, habitat loss due to deforestation or urbanization can limit the availability of food and nesting sites for pollinators. Pesticide use can also harm pollinators directly or indirectly, by reducing the availability of their food sources or altering their behavior.
The global decline of pollinators is a matter of concern as it can have far-reaching consequences for the ecosystem, human food supply chain and human health. Efforts to address this issue include the conservation of pollinator habitats, reduction in pesticide use, and the promotion of sustainable farming practices.