According to a new study by IUCN and partners, global pollination services are estimated to be worth more than US$215 billion. Pollination is critical for food production and human livelihoods.
However, the conservation status of pollinating bird and mammal species is deteriorating, with more species moving towards extinction than away from it. Habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture was found to be the main cause of decline for a considerable proportion of species among both mammals and birds.
“Our study is the first global assessment of trends in pollinators,” says lead author Eugenie Regan of UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre. “It shows a worrying trend that may be impacting negatively on global pollination services, estimated to be worth more than US$215 billion.”
Nine percent of all currently recognised bird and mammal species are known or inferred to be pollinators. Among mammals, bats are the principal pollinators, responsible for pollinating a large number of economically and ecologically important plants such as agave and cacti. Key pollinating birds include hummingbirds, honeyeaters, sunbirds and white-eyes. Approximately 90 per cent of flowering plants are pollinated by animals, and humans rely heavily on many of these plant species for food, livestock forage, medicine, materials and other purposes.
“The vast majority of pollination is carried out by invertebrates, such as bees, but unfortunately the lack of available resources for species assessments means that we cannot yet determine the global trend in the status of these pollinator species,” says co-author Michael Hoffmann, Senior Scientist in IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC).
“However, these initial results for bird and mammal pollinators do not bode well for trends in insect pollinators.” Habitat loss from unsustainable agriculture was found to be the main cause of decline for a considerable proportion of species among both mammals and birds. Pollinating mammals, such as the large-bodied fruit bats, are also severely impacted by hunting for bushmeat, while birds are affected by the impacts of invasive alien species.
The study, Global Trends in the Status of Bird and Mammal Pollinators, was produced in collaboration by the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sapienza University of Rome, and BirdLife International.