Bees and many other insects may be in decline almost everywhere — but agriculture that depends on pollinators has been surprisingly unaffected at the global scale.
That’s the conclusion of a study by Alexandra Klein at the University of California, Berkeley, and her colleagues. Using a data set of global crop production — maintained by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) — which spanned 1961 to 2006, they compared the yields of crops that require pollinators with those that don’t.
They found that crop yields for both crop types have gone up consistently, seeing average annual growth rates of about 1.5%. There was also no difference when the researchers split the data into crops from developing countries and crops from developed countries.
And when the researchers compared crops that are cultivated almost exclusively in tropical regions, they found no difference between the success of insect-pollinated crops — such as oil palm, cocoa and the Brazil nut — and those crops that need only the breeze to spread their pollen.
An interesting finding, but I expect that data collected at the national level is not able to detect current declines in pollination services. In the news article Klein states that the data doesn’t show the extent to which farmers may have adapted to a decline, and that the world is becoming increasingly reliant on pollinator dependent crops. They have grown from 8 % of developed world agricultural production in 1961 to about 15% in 2006.
This study also points out the gap between local level ecological understanding and regional to global assessment needs.