Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » Vegetable Crops Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #365288

Research Project: Pollinators and Gene Flow

Location: Vegetable Crops Research

Title: Pollinator decline: Implications for food security and the environment

item Brunet, Johanne

Submitted to: Scientia Global
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/26/2019
Publication Date: 6/26/2019
Citation: Brunet, J. 2019. Pollinator decline: Implications for food security and the environment. Scientia Global.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Bees are particularly important pollinators, with over 16,000 bee species known worldwide. The great majority of bee species are solitary; they do not have colonies and castes with a queen, workers (females) and drones (males). Both social and solitary bees contribute to crop pollination and to the pollination of wild plant species. Unfortunately, bees are in decline and the decrease in bee populations has been attributed to various causes – the three major culprits are pests and pathogens, exposure to agrochemicals and habitat loss and degradation. These factors can interact with one another, where habitat loss or pesticides can lead to poor nutrition and poor nutrition makes bees more prone to disease. Human actions impact many of the factors responsible for bee decline. Habitat degradation and fragmentation result mainly from the expansion of human dwellings and from a more extensive use of the land for agriculture. Furthermore, the use of pesticides in agriculture and home gardens is directly influenced by the need for food and for enhanced urban and suburban landscapes. Humans may have facilitated the movement of pathogens across continents. There is also concern that climate change will disrupt the synchrony between pollinator and plant emergence, limiting interactions between plants and their pollinators with potential negative effects on pollinator health and plant reproduction. A decline of pollinators can seriously impact the food supply. Fruit production would be strongly affected as most fruits require insects for pollination. Propagation of vegetables would become very problematic. A loss of pollinators would not lead to the complete disappearance of plants on earth, as various plants are wind-pollinated and other plants rely entirely on self-pollination for seed production. However, it would shift the composition of plant communities with serious implications for the animals that feed on them or use them for shelter. These changes would have many ramifications, many of which are difficult to predict. Humans depend on plants and plants depend on pollinators. A balance must be maintained in order to sustain life on earth and protect human survival and health.