A critical omission in the biodiversity debate has been the lack of a direct link to human health. This research shows that the loss of pollinators already has health impacts on a scale with other global health risk factors, such as prostate cancer or substance use disorders.

A World Without Bees: What’s next?

Increasing human pressure on natural systems is causing alarming losses in biodiversity, which is the theme of the COP 15 UN Conference on Biodiversity currently being held in Montreal. This includes a 1-2% annual decline in insect populations, leading some to warn of an “insect apocalypse” in the coming decades.


Among insect species, pollinators are important for growing three-quarters of the major crop species and for growing healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Using a modeling framework that includes empirical evidence from hundreds of experimental farm networks across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, the researchers considered “pollinator yield gaps” for the most important pollinator-dependent crops. much crop loss was due to insufficient pollination.

Pollinator Declines: Implications for Food Security and the Environment

They then used a global risk-disease model to estimate the potential health effects of changes in pollination on dietary risks and mortality across countries. In addition, they calculated the loss of economic value due to lost pollination in three case study countries.

The results showed that lost food production is concentrated in low-income countries, but the health burden is greater in middle- and high-income countries with higher rates of non-communicable diseases.

The geographic distribution was somewhat unusual, as the health impacts of global environmental change are generally concentrated among the poorest populations in regions such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Middle-income countries with large populations – China, India, Indonesia and Russia – bore the biggest burden here.

The analysis also showed that low-income countries lost significant agricultural income, potentially 10-30% of total agricultural value, due to insufficient pollination and low productivity.

The results may seem surprising, but they reflect the complex dynamics behind food systems and human populations around the world. Only with this type of interdisciplinary modeling can we better address the scale and impact of the problem.

Strategies to protect wild pollinators are not only an environmental issue, but also a health and economic one.

Source: Eurekalert

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