Key Messages



Animal pollination plays a vital role as a regulating ecosystem service in nature. Globally, nearly 90 per cent of wild flowering plant species depend, at least in part, on the transfer of pollen by animals. These plants are critical for the continued functioning of ecosystems as they provide food, form habitats and provide other resources for a wide range of other species.

More than three quarters of the leading types of global food crops rely to some extent on animal pollination for yield and/or quality. Pollinator dependent crops contribute to 35 per cent of global crop production volume.

Given that pollinator-dependent crops rely on animal pollination to varying degrees, it is estimated that 5-8 per cent of current global crop production, with an annual market value of US $235 billion-$577 billion (in 2015) worldwide, is directly attributable to animal pollination.

The importance of animal pollination varies substantially among crops, and therefore among regional crop economies. Many of the world’s most important cash crops benefit from animal pollination in terms of yield and/or quality and are leading export products in developing countries (e.g., coffee and cocoa) and developed countries (e.g., almonds), providing employment and income for millions of people.

Pollinator-dependent food products are important contributors to healthy human diets and nutrition. Pollinator-dependent species encompass many fruit, vegetable, seed, nut and oil crops, which supply major proportions of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in the human diet.

The vast majority of pollinator species are wild, including more than 20,000 species of bees, some species of flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, thrips, birds, bats and other vertebrates. A few species of bees are widely managed, including the western honey bee (Apis mellifera), the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana), some bumble bees, some stingless bees and a few solitary bees.

Beekeeping provides an important source of income for many rural livelihoods. The western honey bee is the most widespread managed pollinator in the world, and globally there are about 81 million hives producing an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of honey annually.

Both wild and managed pollinators have globally significant roles in crop pollination, although their relative contributions differ according to crop and location. Crop yield and/or quality depend on both the abundance and diversity of pollinators. A diverse community of pollinators generally provides more effective and stable crop pollination than any single species. Pollinator diversity contributes to crop pollination even when managed species (e.g., honey bees) are present in high abundance. The contribution of wild pollinators to crop production is undervalued.

Pollinators are a source of multiple benefits to people, beyond food provisioning, contributing directly to medicines, biofuels (e.g. canola and palm oil), fibres (e.g., cotton and linen) construction materials (timbers), musical instruments, arts and crafts, recreational activities and as sources of inspiration for art, music, literature, religion, traditions, technology and education. Pollinators serve as important spiritual symbols in many cultures. Sacred passages about bees in all the worlds’ major religions highlight their significance to human societies over millennia.



Wild pollinators have declined in occurrence and diversity (and abundance for certain species) at local and regional scales in North West Europe and North America. Although a lack of wild pollinator data (species identity, distribution and abundance) for Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania preclude any general statement on their regional status, local declines have been recorded. Long-term international or national monitoring of both pollinators and pollination is urgently required to provide information on status and trends for most species and most parts of the world.

The number of managed western honey bee hives has increased globally over the last five decades, even though declines have been recorded in some European countries and North America over the same period. Seasonal colony loss of western honey bees has in recent years been high at least in some parts of the temperate Northern Hemisphere and in South Africa. Beekeepers can under some conditions, with associated economic costs, make up such losses through the splitting of managed colonies.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments indicate that 16.5 per cent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction (increasing to 30 per cent for island species). There are no global Red List assessments specifically for insect pollinators. However, regional and national assessments indicate high levels of threat for some bees and butterflies. In Europe, 9 per cent of bee and butterfly species are threatened and populations are declining for 37 per cent of bees and 31 per cent of butterflies (excluding data deficient species, which includes 57 per cent of bees). The volume of production of pollinator dependent crops has increased by 300 per cent over the last five decades, making livelihoods increasingly dependent on the provision of pollination. However, overall these crops have experienced lower growth and lower stability of yield than pollinator-independent crops. Yield per hectare of pollinator-dependent crops has increased less, and varies more year to year, than yield per hectare of pollinator-independent crops. While the drivers of this trend are not clear, studies of several crops at local scales show that production declines when pollinators decline.



IPBES Report 2016

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Report. IPBES provides Governments, private sector, and civil society with scientifically credible and independent up-to-date assessments of available knowledge to make informed decisions.