Earth's pollinating insects face risks that threaten world food supply

April 22, 2013 at 5:36 PM
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LONDON, April 22 (UPI) -- Pollinating insects, vital to global food supplies, face a "cocktail" of multiple pressures putting their survival at risk, a British-led study indicated.

Insects provide pollination activities to about 75 percent of the world's crop species and their decline or loss could have profound environmental, human health and economic consequences, Britain's Center for Ecology and Hydrology reported Monday.

Forty scientists from 27 institutions involved in Britain's Insect Pollinators Initiative, a $15 million research program investigating the causes and consequences of pollinator decline, published a review of the threats in the journal "Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment."

"There is no single smoking gun behind pollinator declines, instead there is a cocktail of multiple pressures that can combine to threaten these insects," review leader Adam Vanbergen said.

"For example, the loss of food resources in intensively farmed landscapes, pesticides and diseases are individually important threats but are also likely to combine and exacerbate the negative impacts on pollinators."

Pollinator populations are declining in many regions, creating threats to human food supplies and ecosystem functions, the scientists said as they urged governments to take steps to address the problem.

"The costs of taking action now to tackle the multiple threats to pollinators is much smaller than the long-term costs to our food security and ecosystem stability," study co-author Simon Potts from the University of Reading said. "Failure by governments to take decisive steps now only sets us up for bigger problems in the future."

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