Studies have discovered alarming population declines and even local extinctions of pollinator species across the US and Europe. One in ten pollinating insects is on the brink of extinction, and a third of bee and butterfly species is declining. In response, the European Union is proposing the first-ever EU plan to address the decline of pollinating insects.
Pollinators are an “excellent ecosystem health check,” if they are not doing well, then biodiversity, in general, is also not doing well, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries Karmenu Vella says.
Pollination is one of the most critical ecosystem services. It is necessary for reproduction of about 80 percent of all plant species and 35 percent of the global crop production. However, studies discovered that bees and other pollinators have been in decline in recent decades and there has been a severe degradation of the pollination provided by the remaining wild pollinators due to the use of insecticides and climate change.
The primary pollinators are bees, and there are 25,000 species of the insects worldwide. The European Honey Bee, Apis Mellifera, is among the species that dominates world crop pollination. We are dependent on these pollinators, not only for the crops they sustain but for our survival on this planet.
Crops like cotton and hemp and some species of trees, need pollinators to produce further generations. Flowering plants and bee species depend on each other for survival. These plants pollinated by bees deliver essential services to the world including carbon sequestration, prevention of soil erosion, nitrogen fixation, maintenance of the water table, and greenhouse gas absorption.
Their actions are necessary to safeguard biodiversity, agriculture and food security. With the decline of these species, dangerous threats and risks to biodiversity are happening. The situation must be addressed immediately as healthy ecosystems with rich biodiversity are necessary if we are to feed the 7.3 billion people who today live on this planet.
The European Union proposes a new set of measures that features a new indicator to improve monitoring and data. The commission further commits to better coordination of EU action across different sectors and policies to discuss the social and economic implications of the decrease in pollinating insects.
EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis reported that the commission recently banned the outdoor use of three pesticides known as neonicotinoids that are proven to be harmful to pollinators.
The proposal features measures to improve knowledge on pollinator decline, measures to tackle the causes of fall, and a goal to raise awareness, engage citizens and promote collaboration.
The objectives of the “EU Pollinators Initiative” set a long-term angle towards 2030, with numerous short-term efforts to be implemented until 2020. The commission will review the progress of the implementation and discuss further action if necessary at the end of 2020.