Human population growth, coupled with industrial development, has caused an increase in the consumption of natural resources in a very unsustainable manner. This jeopardizes the vital ecosystem services and threatens global biodiversity. An excellent example of this is the effect on insect pollination. The vast majority of the world pollinators include social and solitary bees, flies, wasps, moths, butterflies and beetles. These are even economically important as the vast majority of them are crucial for pollination of fruit, vegetable, oil, seed and nut crops. Global wild and managed pollination in 2005 was worth 215 billion dollars. Crops pollinated.by insects provide vital human nutrition worldwide. Not only humans, insect that pollinates wild plants is an important mechanism underpinning ecosystem services and biodiversity. Insect pollinators have been facing growing pressure due to intensified land use, climate change, invasive species and the added stress of spread of pests and pathogens. All of this is having a severe implication to human food security and health, along with ecosystem function.
These threats have been recognized for a long time, but the majority of research has focused on their impact and not on the complex nature of the problem. It has lead to an only partial explanation for the cause and decline in the pollinator population. Pollinators provide a vital ecosystem service by improving or stabilizing yields of about 75% of crop-plant species globally.
Pollination by insect cultivated areas of insect dependent crops has increased threefolds worldwide since 1961. Managed honeybees alone for their activity is often insufficient to deliver adequate quantity and quality of pollen at the appropriate place and time. Ther is a direct link between pollinator diversity and sustainable crop development. Natural habitat that supports wild pollinators provides a resilient and complimentary pollination service which increases crop yields. Therefore depending on just one species for agricultural pollination service is a risky affair. Suppose the demands for the cultivation of insect-pollinated crops continue to increase. In that case, whereas the population of insect pollinators decrease, it is likely to cause food shortages and economic halt soon. This will have a catastrophic effect on human health worldwide. Even though wind-pollinated crops and self-pollinated staple crops provide the vast majority of human food by volume but insect-pollinated crops provide vital nutrient and dietary varieties. For instance, humans are already facing Vitamin A deficiency in most parts of the world. These are due to lack of plants which provide a high vitamin A content. This is due to significant plants that offer high Vitamin A range are insect-pollinated. Human health problems will be magnified in developing countries.
On the other hand, pollinator decline can have a catastrophic for natural ecosystems. About 78% to 94% flowering plants depends on insect pollinators for pollination in temperate and tropical ecosystems respectively. Even though properties of pollinator networks like species redundancies, networks structure and behavioural flexibility make them relatively robust, computer simulation models predict that continued pollinator extinction can cause a sharp crash in plant species diversity if the highly connected species are diminished. This, in turn, will cause cascading effects on the ecological and evolutionary implications for plants, food webs and ecosystem services. This effect will be seen positively in the tropics where much of the earth’s biodiversity resides, and reliance on animal population is the highest. Therefore, such ecological catastrophes can threateningly deteriorate human health as a decline in tropical biodiversity means a drop in many commercial nutrition supplements and undiscovered medicinal properties as well.
To know about the critical pressures on pollinators, consider staying tuned for the next part of this article.
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A. Vanbergen and t. Initiative, "Threats to an ecosystem service: pressures on pollinators",Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 251-259, 2013. Available: 10.1890/120126 [Accessed 1 November 2020].