A new study has warned that the loss of $200 billion (£131 billion) worth of pollinating services from insects because of human-induced pressures will cause profound economic, health and environmental consequences.
The paper, Threats to an ecosystem service: pressures on pollinators from a team of 40 scientists from 27 institutions, was published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment this week.
To investigate the effects on natural pollinators, institutions including the UK’s Insect Pollinators Initiative (IPI), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Scottish government have found that multiple human-induced pressures are responsible for declines in pollinators.
Climate change, the introduction and spread of alien species, land-use intensification, pesticide use and disease are examples of anthropogenic threats.
“There is no single smoking gun behind pollinator declines. Pollinators face many threats and it’s likely that these combine to exacerbate the negative impacts of each”, said Dr Adam Vanbergen, from the Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and lead author of the report.
“Intensive farming reduces the availability of nectar and pollen foods for these insects and such malnourished pollinators will be more susceptible to pathogens and pesticide impacts, for example.”
The report has warned that the loss of $200 billion (£131 billion) worth of annual pollinating services will threaten human food supplies and ecosystem functions. Further research and stakeholder collaboration to help tackle the multiple pressures on pollinator health and populations has been suggested by the scientists.
Recommended conservation actions from the study include expanding education on pesticide risks, creating effective habitat networks and the development of disease therapies.