Scientific Skills & Communications 

Abstract on Pollinators

There is a lot of evidence that suggests our pollinators have been in heavy decline for decades. The causes of this decline have made an increasingly unfavourable impact upon our food system, with less crop yields getting produced. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the state of bees, what the causes are, and what is being done to help pollinators. The sources reviewed are drawn from a comprehensive timeline with a wide variety of authors to achieve a full understanding of the current state. Findings show that the bee decline has been documented and monitored for over a decade with very little improvement. With further controlled experimentation and observations on remedies conducted by experts could provide a better understanding of what is happening to our pollinators and how to improve the situation.

1. Introduction to Pollinators

All over the world, the existence of Bees is continuously declining. The decline in the health of bees has major negative implications for the food system. Bees play a major role in the food system by pollinating crops which help in increasing yields. Along with this, the pollination by bees has also resulted in the development of lucrative honey industries in the global world. According to the finding of the study conducted by Crenna et al. (2017), one third of the food eaten by human beings is either directly or indirectly pollinated by bees. The growth of many fruits and vegetables is dependent on pollination by bees. Therefore, it can be evaluated that many major food categories may disappear from the food shelves if pollination process does not takes place.

The importance of bees can be evaluated from the fact that millions of rupees are spent every year on bee hiving for pollinating the crops of farmers (Zhang et al., 2019). According to the statistics, the honey bees contribute nearly $24 billion each year to the agriculture sector of United States. While evaluating the contribution of bees towards the agriculture sector of Australia, it could be retrieved that honey bees contribute significantly towards the agricultural diversity of the economy. The benefit of pollination towards the agriculture sector of Australia was equivalent to $19 billion in the financial year of 2017.

In recent times, the agriculture sector has witnessed significant decline in the colonies of honeybees. However, the crisis in the honey bee population started since the year 2006. In the year 2006 it was the first time when the beekeepers reported a sudden decline of entire bee colonies. It was suspiciously found that the bee hives got abandoned. Later, the field of science named this sudden disappearance of colonies as colony collapse. This colony collapse is steadily becoming an issue and has gained public awareness. The research conducted by Wang et al. (2020), states that it becomes important that the general public in the societies are educated regarding the strategies that can be adopted for pollinator conservation. The recommendations of the study also suggest that the research needs to done in order to further develop management strategies for pollinator conservation.

The focus of the present literature review will be to identify the impact of decline in the pollination on the food system. The present literature will be critically analysed in order to find out the relationship between bee pollination and productivity of the food system. Therefore, the focus of the present study will be to identify the ramifications on our food system if pollination disappeared.

2. Factors that Led to The Decline in Pollination

There are many factors that can heavily influence pollinator populations and cause their decline. Throughout the literature reviewed the most mentioned and detrimental was Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The exact cause of this phenomenon is perplexing, instead is thought to be a combination of different factors: modern agriculture practices, pesticides, parasites and diseases. All these issues alone impact on bee populations; all together give a strong overview of how unsustainable modern agricultural practices are for our pollinators.

2.1 Modern agriculture practices and bee decline

The modern or industrial agriculture leads to destruction of the natural habitats. This happens because the natural range of the pollination area done by the bees overlap with the areas on which the industrial farming takes place. The modern agriculture leads to fragmentation of semi natural and natural habitats which eventually has a negative impact on the communities of pollinators (Tanis et al., 2020). The destructive practices involved in the modern agriculture reduce the nesting abilities of bees. The activities like utilization of pesticides and herbicides became the major threat to the existence of pollinator communities. The insecticides are used in the modern agricultural practices for killing the insects. However, the authorities of the field of agriculture neglect the negative impact of the insecticides on the existence of pollinators (vanEngelsdorp et al., 2017).

According to the study conducted by Durant (2017), if these industrial agricultural practices are switched with ecological farming system and green technologies then the agriculture can benefit the existence ability of the pollinator communities.

2.2 Climate change

The fluctuations in the climatic conditions including increasing or decreasing temperatures and changes in patterns of rainfall also have a direct impact on the population of pollinators. The finding of the study states that the negative impact of the changes in the temperature and the rainfall patterns is just not limited to the individual pollinator but it impacts the entire colonies significantly. According to another study conducted by Morel et al. (2019), bees and plants gets cues regarding the weather. If the weather changes do not take place according to the set norms then the sync between the flowers and the bees could not take place (Roy et al., 2018). Therefore, it can be evaluated that when there are sudden fluctuations in the weather conditions the pollination does not take place when the flowers actually are ready to get pollinated.

2.3 Diseases and parasites

While evaluating the present literature on bee pollination it could also be found out that the presence of diseases and the parasites among the crops also lead to the decline in the population of bees (Schaeffer et al., 2017). Bees are highly susceptible to present parasites and diseases. The study also postulates that the fluctuations in the weather conditions can also be considered as a significant factor that increases the prevalence of parasites in the crops (Martínez-Domínguez et al., 2020). Therefore, it can be evaluated that sudden high or low atmospheric temperatures can lead to exacerbating the concern of existence of parasites and decline in the population of bees.

Table 1: compares the believed causes of CCD for each source. – most focused causes from different sources 

Study

Issues contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

NcNamara, 2016 paper

Modern agriculture -monocultures, flowerless landscapes - and systemic pesticides contributing to CCD. disease carrying parasites such as varroa.

vanEngelsdorp et al. (2016)

Poor nutrition, increased viral and bacterial loads, insecticides and pesticides interaction, and pressure from parasites.

Kumar et al.(2018)

EMF radiation, pesticides, diseases and climatic changes

Roy et al.(2018)

Land cover change, precipitation, pesticide usage and extreme weather patterns.

Through the above discussion and the findings of the above studies it can be understood that the fluctuating weather conditions and the modern agricultural practices involving the usage of pesticides and insecticides are the major reasons due to which there is a decline in pollination.

Ramifications

Decline in the pollination process can have serious negative implications for the food supply. The literature points out to the fact that most of the fruits and vegetables require pollination (Štípková et al., 2020). Therefore, reduction in the process of pollination will definitely negatively impact propagation of the fruits and vegetables. However, the literature also points out to the fact that declined pollination may not entirely lead to food penury because not all the fruits and vegetables require pollination. But, it cannot be disagreed that pollinators play a major role in the food supply and their extinction will definitely pose a threat to the food supply. The findings of the study conducted by Fijen et al. (2020), estimated that there is a significant relationship between the yield value, produced volume of crops and the pollination process.

In this relationship the pollination process in the independent variable and the yield and volume of the crops are dependent variables. Therefore, it can be interpreted that decline in the pollinators will not just only have negative impact on the food supply but it will also negatively impact the incomes of the families working in the agriculture sector (Hennessy et al., 2020). A high proportion of low income families are dependent upon agricultural sector for their incomes. Therefore, it can be estimated that there will be huge negative impact on the income distribution with the decline in the pollinators.

It becomes important to consider the declining population of bees is a serious and immediate concern because they play a very crucial role in the food production. According to the report by King et al. (2013), 35% of the major crop production is dependent upon the pollination of bees. The pollination by bees increases the productivity and the output of major 87 crops. Not all, but two third of all the major crops, fruits and vegetables required to be pollinated in order to become ready for consumption by the humans (MacPhail et al., 2018). According to the findings of the study, the pollination process just not only helps in production of various food categories but also helped in maintaining the quality of the food and variety of food products to be offered to the customers in the market.

Remedies

Name of the authority

Steps taken

FAO

The organization has taken various steps in order to promote the utilization of pollinator friendly practices and methods in the agriculture (Sandhu et al., 2016).

Some of the initiatives taken by the authority include Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture and Initiative for International Pollinators.

Both of these initiatives stressed upon the fact that pollinators are under great threat and their existence is necessary in order to ensure the good quality and diversity of the food being available for human consumption.

Department For Environmental Food and Rural Affairs

The authority drafted The National Pollinator Strategy in order to combine the efforts of all the important stakeholders for protecting the pollinators (Kumar, 2018). The aim of the policy is to ensure the existence of pollinators in the ecosystem so that they could perform their function of pollinating crops, fruits and vegetables in order to ensure that food supply matches with the level of food demand by the consumers in the market.

Washington State Beekeepers Association

The WSBA’s goal is to “keep the bee in business.”

The mission is to “help local beekeeping organizations, assist the agricultural community, and promote beekeeping and bee products and more.”

The above tables demonstrate the initiatives taken by major organizations and authorities in order to protect the population and colonies of bees. The literature also suggests few methods in which the negative impact of modern agriculture on pollinators could be controlled. The literature suggests transforming the current destructive and modern agricultural practices into ecological farming system (Kumar, 2018). With the development of ecological farming system, the negative impact on the human food security through decline in the pollination process could be controlled.

The finding of a study conducted by Fijen et al.(2020), also suggests that the utilization of pesticides and insecticides could also be controlled in order to safeguard the process of natural pollination. However, the adoption of this approach is a challenge because most of the people involved in the agricultural practices generally have a profit notion and believe that they will be able to increase the productivity of crops using chemical intensive techniques (Rucker et al., 2019). The literature also points out the fact that the projects related to ecological farming system receive less funding from the government due to which many economies are still utilizing chemical intensive techniques in agricultural sector.

Conclusion on Pollinators

It could be analysed from the literature that natural pollination process plays a major role in the food system. The production of major crops, fruits and vegetables require pollination and therefore the decline in pollination and disappearance of pollinators can have serious negative implications for the food system and food supply to the customers in the market.

Based upon the findings of the literature review it could be find out that there are many factors that can heavily influence pollinator populations and cause their decline. The exact cause of this phenomenon is perplexing, instead is thought to be a combination of different factors: modern agriculture practices, pesticides, parasites and diseases. All these issues alone impact on bee populations; all together give a strong overview of how unsustainable modern agricultural practices are for our pollinators. Therefore, it requires a shift from modern and destructive agricultural methods to ecological farm system in order to reduce the decline of pollinators.

References for Pollinators 

Crenna, E., Sala, S., Polce, C., & Collina, E. (2017). Pollinators in life cycle assessment: towards a framework for impact assessment. Journal of cleaner production140, 525-536.

Durant, J. L. (2019). Where have all the flowers gone? Honey bee declines and exclusions from floral resources. Journal of rural studies65, 161-171.

Fijen, T. P., Scheper, J. A., Vogel, C., van Ruijven, J., & Kleijn, D. (2020). Insect pollination is the weakest link in the production of a hybrid seed crop. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment290, 106743.

Hennessy, G., Harris, C., Eaton, C., Wright, P., Jackson, E., Goulson, D., & Ratnieks, F. F. (2020). Gone with the wind: effects of wind on honey bee visit rate and foraging behaviour. Animal Behaviour161, 23-31.

King, C., Ballantyne, G., & Willmer, P. G. (2013). Why flower visitation is a poor proxy for pollination: measuring single‐visit pollen deposition, with implications for pollination networks and conservation. Methods in Ecology and Evolution4(9), 811-818.

Kumar, S. S. (2018). Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Honey BeesCaused by EMF Radiation. Bioinformation14(9), 421.

MacPhail, V. J., Ferguson, S., Tompkins, H., & Colla, S. R. (2018). The missing link: A case for increased consideration for plant-pollinator interactions for species at-risk recovery in Ontario. Journal for Nature Conservation42, 1-6.

Martínez-Domínguez, L., Nicolalde-Morejón, F., Vergara-Silva, F., & Stevenson, D. W. (2020). Pollination of cycads in an urban environment. Botany, (999), 1-7.

Morel, A. C., Hirons, M., Adu Sasu, M., Quaye, M., Ashley Asare, R., Mason, J., ... & Straser, R. (2019). The Ecological Limits Acting on Cocoa Smallholders and the Implications for Poverty Alleviation in an African Forest-Agriculture Landscape. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems3, 57.

 Roy, D., Debnath, P., Mondal, D., & Sarkar, P. K. (2018). Colony Collapse Disorder of Honey Bee: A Neoteric Ruction in Global Apiculture. Current Journal of Applied Science and Technology, 1-12.

Rucker, R. R., Thurman, W. N., & Burgett, M. (2019). Honey Bee Mortality, Markets, and the Food Supply. Choices34(316-2019-4159), 1-9.

Sandhu, H., Waterhouse, B., Boyer, S., & Wratten, S. (2016). Scarcity of ecosystem services: an experimental manipulation of declining pollination rates and its economic consequences for agriculture. PeerJ4, e2099.

Schaeffer, R. N., Mei, Y. Z., Andicoechea, J., Manson, J. S., & Irwin, R. E. (2017). Consequences of a nectar yeast for pollinator preference and performance. Functional Ecology31(3), 613-621.

Štípková, Z., Tsiftsis, S., & Kindlmann, P. (2020). Pollination mechanisms are driving orchid distribution in space. Scientific reports10(1), 1-13.

Tanis, M. M., Marshall, L., Biesmeijer, J. K., & van Kolfschoten, L. (2020). Grassland management for meadow birds in the Netherlands is unfavourable to pollinators. Basic and Applied Ecology43, 52-63.

vanEngelsdorp, D., Traynor, K. S., Andree, M., Lichtenberg, E. M., Chen, Y., Saegerman, C., & Cox-Foster, D. L. (2017). Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and bee age impact honey bee pathophysiology. PLoS One12(7), e0179535.

Wang, Y., Wu, H., & Wang, S. (2020). Persistence of pollination mutualisms under pesticides. Applied Mathematical Modelling77, 861-880.

Zhang, H., Chen, D., Ying, Z., Zhang, F., & Liao, J. (2019). Robustness of the pollination-herbivory system with high-order interactions to habitat loss. Ecological Modelling414, 108826.

Remember, at the center of any academic work, lies clarity and evidence. Should you need further assistance, do look up to our Science Assignment Help

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