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Animal pollinators responsible for 35 percent of world food crop

Animal pollinators responsible for 35 percent of world food crop

Animal pollinators responsible for 35 percent of world food crop
October 25, 2006

A new study calculates that 35 percent of the world’s crop production is dependent on pollinators, like bats, bees, and birds. The research suggests that biodiversity loss could directly impact global food crops.

The study comes a week after another report found declines in populations of key North American pollinators

“There’s a widely stated phrase in agriculture that you can thank a pollinator for one out of three bites of food you eat,” said Dr. Claire Kremen, an assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and co-author of the study. “However, it wasn’t clear where that calculation came from, so we set out to do a more thorough and reproducible estimate, and we wanted to look at the impact on a global scale.”

The researchers found that of the 115 crops studied, 87 depend to some degree upon animal pollination — of which 13 are “entirely reliant” upon animal pollinators, 30 are “greatly dependent” and 27 are “moderately dependent”.

The researchers say that the loss of key pollinators could dramatically increase the cost of production of some crops. They cite the example of passion fruits in Brazil.

“Passion fruits in Brazil are hand-pollinated through expensive day-laborers as the natural pollinators, carpenter bees, are hardly available because of high insecticide use in the agricultural fields and the destruction of the natural habitats,” said lead author Dr. Alexandra-Maria Klein, who is an agroecologist from the University of Goettingen in Germany.

In North America declining populations of honey bees due to habitat loss and a variety of non-sustainable farming practices are of particular concern according to Kremen.

“We’ve replaced pollination services formerly provided by diverse groups of wild bees with domesticated honey bees,” said Kremen. “The problem is, if we don’t protect the wild pollinators, we don’t have a backup plan.”

This article used information from a Conservation International press release.

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