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Other pollinators in danger

Not only bee populations, the greatest plant pollinators are diminishing. An international researcher network is alerting over the extensive list of animals which also provide this service and which are also threatened.

Bogotá D. C., 26 de mayo de 2016Agencia de Noticias UN-

It is estimated that 70% of the crops increases its production when its blooms are visited by pollinators. Photo: UNal Archives

Emerging and reemerging diseases in bees are a serious threat for these pollinators. Photo: Nicolás Bojacá/Unimedios

Agricultural production in the world which requires pollinators is around 5% and 8%.

Pollinator proliferation is greater in rural areas where several crops are abundant.

Professor Guiomar Nates–Parra of the UNal Bee Research Laboratory.

In Colombia crops which are a national heritage such as coffee could be ruined if the main pollinators such as the honey bee and stingless bees are scarce.

The common bumblebee and bees are part of an exclusive plant zoopollinator club (animal pollinators) added to butterflies, wasps, moths, weevils, hummingbirds, bats, monkeys and even some reptiles which are currently threatened and inclusively are in danger of disappearing. 

Almost 90% of wild plants and trees depend on the task of pollinators which carry their pollen from flower to flower (at least partially). Additionally, more than three quarters of the main crops around the world depend in certain degree on pollinators for their yield and quality. 

In economic terms the agricultural production which requires pollinators represents between 5 and 8% of the world scenario, which values can range between US $235,000 and US $577,000 million. 

However according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 16.5 % of the vertebrate pollinators are currently threatened. In the case of insects there are no specific data, but regional assessments show than in Europe, for instance, 9% of the bees and butterflies are threatened and their populations are diminishing at a rate of 37 and 31% respectively. 

Internet research 

Professor Guiomar Nates–Parra of the UNal Bee Research Laboratory (LABUN, for its Spanish acronym) was part of one of the largest international networks to assess the situation of pollinators.

This is a group of close to 80 experts from 124 countries which belong to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) with support of the United Nations. 

“This is the first time science, indigenous and local knowledge come together to assess this important ecosystemic service,” she said. 

The researchers were grouped by topics to assess the situation of pollinators according to their diversity; behavior; economic; cultural, artistic and religious value; threats (intensive use of insecticides, monocultures, deforestation and climate change) and possible changes with the purpose of reducing the risk of diminishing or extinction. 

For the final report, assessed and approved in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) in February of this year, the experts reviewed more 3,000 bibliographic sources and also accessed local and indigenous knowledge. This enabled them to carry out a broad diagnosis over pollinators in all continents. 

In this manner they confirmed that for instance, yield and quality of at least 75% of the main crops around the world depend in some manner on pollination. In countries of the European Union, this percentage reaches 84%, while in Mexico and Argentina it is closer to 74%. 

Despite most cereal crops such as rice, corn and wheat are pollinized by the wind, the rich food variety we currently enjoy would drastically decrease if pollinators disappear. In fact the IPBES report determined that the function of pollinators cover many fruit, vegetable, seed, nut and oil crops”. 

And as Professor Nates-Parra says from these insects depends we can chose what to eat every day. As she also says that although social honey bees are some of the greatest zoopollinators, they are just 1% of the 20,000 recorded species. The rest of the bees are social and solitary, that is they do not have queen, workers, drone structures or make combs. And as she says, “They are the strength of all the crops of the world.” 

World food safety is not the only at risk without the presence of pollinators. Also the cultural identity of many communities has a strong bond with these insects, including some indigenous groups such as the u’wa, of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, which relates them to the creation of the world and fertility. 

Furthermore tequila in Mexico could terminate if they did not have agave pollinator bats. In Jamaica, a whole cultural tradition would die without hummingbirds, a symbol of the island. And in Colombia, crops which are a national heritage such as coffee could be ruined if the main pollinators such as the honey bee and stingless bees would become scarce. 

Small crop, great diversity 

In the work of Professor Nates–Parra and other researchers they also established that crop diversity is the best strategy to guarantee the existence of pollinators. In a study in which a UNal researcher also contributed and published in Science, determined that pollinator proliferation is greater in rural areas where several crops are abundant. 

In Colombia the expert and her team used wild blueberry crops in the municipality of San Miguel de Sema (Province of Cundinamarca) as a starting point. In this location vegetation is covered by natural oak woods and pine trees without agricultural insecticide or chemical applications, which is the ideal reservoir for pollinators. 

Therefore the IPBES platform wrote a document to include zoopollinators in public policies in participating countries including Colombia. This is a course of action which must be followed to preserve these pollinators along with the productive variety and food safety. 

Read the article in its entirety in Spanish at UN Periódico.

(Por: Fin/MLA/DMH/APBL
)
N.° 782

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