Pollination, Food, and Environment
The World Bee Project aims to bring expertise and knowledge sharing to the design of sustainable agricultural landscapes. We work to bring research disciplines together to help build demand for best practice habitat restoration and conservation.
POLLINATION IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES ON OUR PLANET
It is through pollination that plants are fertilised and able to produce the next generation of plants, including the fruit and vegetables and crops that we eat to survive. Of all the different animals and insects that serve as pollinators, the most important are wild bees and honeybees.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
POLLINATORS ARE IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTORS TO WORLD FOOD PRODUCTION AND NUTRITIONAL SECURITY
Around 75% of crop plants in the world require some degree of animal pollination, including many of our everyday fruit and vegetables.
Until the last few decades we relied on wild bees to pollinate our vegetables, fruits, nuts and crops but wild bee populations are now in decline due to habitat loss, climate change, monocultures, disease, and use of harmful pesticides.
How does pollinator decline affect us?
POLLINATORS ARE DIRECTLY LINKED TO OUR HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Farmers in Europe and the United States are introducing commercially bred bumblebees and releasing them on farmlands hoping that the bees will forage on the crops they need pollinated. This short-term method is unsustainable. It is expensive, it can spread disease and the introduced bees can forage on nectar that local wild pollinators’ survival depends on.
Small family farms in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, do not often have access to, nor could afford the rental of commercially bred bumblebees or honeybees.
Around the world, small family farms produce 70% of our world food supply. Research shows that small family farms can become the solution to the global food crisis we are facing.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO POLLINATOR DECLINE?
We need to restore our eco-systems and create landscapes to support all pollinators and diverse flora and fauna.
CREATING MORE HABITAT IS CRITICAL
Creating more habitats and conserving our remaining flower rich habitats can directly support pollinators while benefiting and protecting threatened plant populations and the wildlife that depends on such habitats.
Pollinators are a key part of biodiversity - the web of life of which we are an integral part and upon which we so fully depend. Pollinators provide an essential ecosystem service we depend on for our nutrition and food – pollination.
The 2016 Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Report recommends:
The "promotion of sustainable agriculture, which helps to diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production." Specific IPBES options include maintaining or “creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscapes.”
The IPBES Report explains that a growing number of pollinator species worldwide are being driven toward extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made, threatening millions of livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies, according to the first global assessment of pollinators.
There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees alone, plus many species of butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals that contribute to pollination. Pollinated crops include those that provide fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils. Many of these are important dietary sources of vitamins and minerals, without which the risks of malnutrition might be expected to increase. Several crops also represent an important source of income in developing countries, for example, the production of coffee and cocoa.
Nearly 90% of all wild flowering plants depend at least to some extent on animal pollination. In addition to food crops, pollinators contribute to crops that provide biofuels (e.g. canola and palm oils), fibers (e.g. cotton), medicines, forage for livestock, and construction materials. Some species also provide materials such as beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts.
Pollinators, especially bees, have also played a role throughout human history as inspirations for art, music, religion and technology. Additionally, they improve quality of life, globally significant heritage sites and practices, symbols of identify, aesthetically significant landscapes. Sacred passages about bees occur in all major world religions.
At the global scale the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that around three quarters of all pollinators are in decline and that their numbers have reduced by about one third in the past decade. There are several reasons for this which include habitat decline, pesticide use and the spread of disease vectors.
Loss of habitat worldwide has been a long-term contributor to pollinator declines. In the UK about 97% of wildflower meadows have disappeared in the last decades due to an increase in farming and over industrialisation.
Bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, other insects and mammals such as lizards pollinate 87% of the world’s flowering plant species. Without pollinators most plants would die. Without plants, pollinators and the many small animal species that also rely on nectar, pollen, seeds and fruit would also decline and die, triggering catastrophic effects for other species right up through the food chain and ecosystem.