From the introduction: The world has been abuzz with the dramatic losses of cultivated honey bees due to colony collapse disorder as well as declines of native pollinator species across the globe. Scientists have recently begun calculating the extent to which food crops depend on animal pollinators including bees, butterflies, and bats, with one study assigning an economic value to the “ecosystem service” provided by pollinators at approximately $167 billion. Even more recently, several other new studies have offered evidence that pollinators may also have a beneficial impact on nutrition security—the availability of essential macro- and micronutrients in the human diet.
“It’s really well known that pollination changes the yields of crops and the economics of farming,” says Taylor Ricketts, director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. It’s becoming better known, he says, that pollination also affects the nutritional value of foods.
Lack of the three macronutrients (fats, protein, and carbohydrates) and numerous essential micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can cause specific nutrient-deficiency conditions as well as weaken the immune system, stunt development, and greatly increase mortality from other diseases. Already, about 795 million people worldwide chronically lack adequate calories and protein, and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies (so-called hidden hunger). According to new estimates, a reduction in pollination services could worsen these problems in certain areas already struggling to overcome them.
Pollinator Power: Nutrition Security Benefits of an Ecosystem Service | Environmental Health Perspectives | volume 123 | number 8 | August 2015
Transparency | Diversity | Dynamism | Evidence-based |