Pollinators around the globe are facing a grim future as a key component of global biodiversity. This is not only bad news for pollinators and other animals, but also for humans due to the risks it poses to the global food supply. Because of this, in 2008, the U.S. Senate designated this very week as National Pollinator Week to emphasize the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations and its impact.
Who are the pollinators and why are they so important?
Pollination happens when pollen is moved within or transferred from flower to flower by animals such as birds, bees, bats, butterflies, moths, or beetles. This transfer of pollen leads to fertilization as well as seed production for plants, which, in turn, provides the human population with food. We are not talking about a little bit of food though. Pollinators worldwide contribute to roughly 1,000 plant species grown for food, drinks, fibers, spices, and medicines, including things like watermelon, almonds, and potatoes not to mention chocolate and coffee! This means that one in three mouthfuls of our food, specifically fruits and vegetables deemed necessary for a healthy diet, rely on the work of those tireless bees and bats.
But agriculture isn’t the only system that would suffer from the loss of pollinators; there’s also the monetary side of the issue. The United States economy benefits tremendously by producing $20 billion annually of products pollinated by bees and other insects. Additionally, millions of jobs worldwide within the agricultural system are impacted by pollination.
What is happening to pollinators?
The simple truth is that we need pollinators. They provide vital ecological functions such as supporting terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watersheds, and producing many of our essential nutrients for a healthy, quality life. However, there is evidence that a massive decline in pollinating animals is taking place across the globe caused by loss of habitat, global warming, chemical misuse, and disease. The impact of this is severe and can threaten the many parts of ecosystems that rely on these animals. While human’s overall food supply will not be as critically impacted as it will for many other species, our balanced and nutritious diets will be affected. Hardest hit will be malnourished regions of the world, which are suggested to face even more food shortages and nutritional deficiencies due to the decline of pollinators.
Because of National Pollinator Week, we are again reminded that as human population continues to increase, so does the demand for non-renewable and renewable resources. Due to its role in climate change, habitat loss, and overconsumption, overpopulation continues to aggravate the forces behind issues like the decline of pollinators while simultaneously creating more mouths to feed.
Let us dedicate this week to bringing awareness to the importance of pollinators and take time to appreciate the positive impact they have on our health, our food system, and our environment. Bee grateful for the work of their buzzing!