Climate Change Poses Grave Threat to Pollinators, Imperiling Biodiversity and Food Security

Researchers have identified climate change as the most pressing threat to pollinators worldwide, overshadowing other human-induced factors such as habitat loss, pesticide use, and pollution. The decline of pollinators, including bumblebees, wasps, and butterflies, has far-reaching consequences for biodiversity conservation, crop yields, and global food security.

The Vital Role of Pollinators in Ecosystems and Agriculture

Pollinators play a crucial role in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems, with 85% of flowering plant species and 87 of the leading global crops relying on their services for seed production. According to The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), approximately 16% of vertebrate pollinators, such as birds and bats, and 40% of invertebrate pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are at risk of extinction.

Dr Johanne Brunet and Dr Fabiana Fragoso, authors of the review, emphasize the urgent need to address the various factors contributing to pollinator decline. “This review introduces the diversity of pollinators, addresses the main drivers of pollinator decline, and presents strategies to reduce their negative impacts,” said Dr Brunet. “We discuss how managed bees negatively affect wild bee species, and examine the impact of habitat loss, pesticide use, pests and pathogens, pollution, and climate change on pollinator decline.”

The Far-Reaching Impacts of Climate Change on Pollinators

Climate change, with its associated changes in water and temperature, can significantly reduce the quantity and quality of resources available to pollinators, decrease the survival of larvae or adults, and modify suitable habitats. The researchers stress that in the absence of pollinators, the human diet will shift towards a preponderance of wind-pollinated crops such as wheat, rice, oat, and corn, while crops that reproduce vegetatively, such as bananas, will be maintained.

To mitigate the negative impacts on pollinators, the researchers advocate for the widespread use of sustainable practices in agriculture and the development of integrated pollinator management strategies. “Potential adverse effects of managed bees on the local wild bee populations must be mitigated. Non-lethal collection methods should be developed and adopted globally in response to the increasing need for base-line pollinator data collection,” said Dr Fragoso.

The review concludes by calling for a holistic approach to pollinator conservation, with management strategies that integrate natural habitats and agricultural systems, together with managed and wild bees. “Measures must keep being implemented to reduce climate change and prevent its serious negative impacts on pollinators. Climate change has the most diverse negative impacts on pollinators and is the threat most difficult to control,” said Dr Brunet. “However, its consequences threaten food security and world stability, thus efforts to control it must be prioritized at a global scale.”

Brunet, Johanne; Fragoso, Fabiana P., ‘What are the main reasons for the world-wide decline in pollinator populations?,’ CABI Reviews, 15 May (2024). DOI: 10.1079/cabireviews.2024.0016

The paper can be read open access from 13:0hrs UK time 15 May, 2024, here:

Keyword phrase: climate change threatens pollinators and food security

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