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Pollinator Week

  • Category
    Agriculture
  • Published
    1st Jul, 2020

The Pollinator Week is observed every year from 22nd June to 28th June.

Context

The Pollinator Week is observed every year from 22nd June to 28th June.

Background

  • In 2007, the S. Senate created a National Pollinator Weekto “recognize the importance of pollinators to ecosystem health and agriculture in the United States.”
  • The Pollinator Week (June 22-28) was initiated by non-profit Pollinator Partnership and the United States’ Senate.
  • Each year since then, recognition of National Pollinator Week has grown, with many states and local groups planning educational events.
  • The week is often a time for light stories on pollinator-friendly gardening tips and social media posts of cute bees and butterflies. 

Analysis

Understanding Pollination

  • Pollination is the delivery of pollen to the female organs of a plant (stigma in flowers). Pollen is made by the male organs of a plant (stamens in flowers) and contains genetic information needed for plant reproduction.
  • Pollen may be transferred to female organs on the same plant (self-pollination) or another plant of the same species (cross-pollination).
  • As a result of pollination the plants produce seeds.
  • Pollen can be dispersed by wind, water and animal pollinators such as insects, bats and birds.

What are Pollinators?

  • Pollinators are animals that transfer pollen from the anthers to the stigma of a flower, enabling the flower to set seed and fruit (fertilization) and, through cross-fertilization, they play an important role in maintaining plant diversity.
  • The important ecosystem service of pollination is provided by a variety of animals, chiefly insects. Bees, flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, thrips and some other insect orders encompass the majority of pollinating species.
  • There are two categories of pollinators:
    • Invertebrates: Well-known invertebrate pollinators include bees, moths, flies, wasps, beetles and butterflies.
    • Vertebrates: Monkeys, rodents, lemurs, tree squirrels and birds also facilitate pollination and are among the vertebrate pollinators.

The Global situation

  • More than 180,000 plant species, including 1,200 crop varieties, across the world depend on pollinators to reproduce. But the little creatures, like the bees and the butterflies, have increasingly been under threat. This is a week for them.
  • There are 150,000 species across the world who visit flowers, of which bees, being dominant pollinators, account for 25,000-30,000 species, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO).
  • Around 40 per cent of invertebrate pollinator species — particularly beesand butterflies — face extinction across the world, according to the FAO.
  • The US saw a decline in its bee populationas well: In 2017, there were 2.88 million honey bee colonies, a 12 per cent dip from the 3.28 million colonies in the country in 2012, according to the FAO.
  • Similarly, around 16.5 per cent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with extinction, according to the FAO.
  • Of these, 45 species of bats, 36 species of non-flying mammals, 26 species of hummingbirds, seven species of sunbirds and 70 species of passerine birds, face extinction, according to the FAO’s rapid assessment on pollinators’ status.

India’s case

  • In India, wild honeybeesof the genus Apis — including the Asian bee (A cerana) and the little bee (A florea) — declined steadily for the past 30 years, said Pollinators Unknown: People’s perception of native bees in an agrarian district of West Bengal, India, and its implication in conservation, a 2017 study.
  • Nearly 168 bees died every day due to poor waste management, pointed out Decline in honey bee population in southern India: Role of disposable paper cups, a 2014 study.
  • Overall, 35,211 bees died every month, the study said.
  • In India, most of the food crops need insect (mainly bee) pollinators for sufficient successful pollination.
  • Oil seeds (such as Sunflower, niger, safflower), vegetables (Cucurbitaceous Vegetable Crops, legume crops) and many fruit crops are profoundly reliant on pollinators.
  • A list of crops pollinated by bees is as follows
    • Fruits and nuts: Almond, apple, apricot, peach, strawberry, citrus and litchi.
    • Vegetable and Vegetable seed crops: Cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, coriander, cucumber, melon, onion, pumpkin, radish and turnip.
    • Oil seed crops: Sunflower, niger, rape seed, mustard, safflower, gingelly.
    • Forage seed crops: Lucerne, clover.

Why Bees are so crucial?

  • Among the pollinator groups, bees have been considered a priority group.
  • Bees are synonymous with insect pollinators and they are publicly shared assets, most species and populations belonging to nobody, yet benefiting all of us through pollination – a perfect example of ’positive externality’, in economic parlance.
  • In general, bees are the main pollinators of angiosperms.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the U.N. estimates that of the slightly more than 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of food supplies for 146 countries, 71 are bee-pollinated (mainly by wild bees), and several others are pollinated by thrips, wasps, flies, beetles, moths and other insects.
  • In India, Honeybees (Apis spp.) are always valued for honey and wax, earning them due importance and never appreciated for pollination services.

Why Pollinator matters?

  • Pollinators are crucial in the functioning of almost all terrestrial ecosystems including those dominated by agriculture because they are in the front line of sustainable productivity through plant reproduction.
  • One-third of the world’s crops require pollination to set seeds and fruits and the great majority of them are pollinated by bees.
  • These pollinators also provide an important ecosystem service that is essential for sustaining wild floral biodiversity.
  • Pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat and vital to the production of 75 percent of the world’s top food crops—everything from apples to zucchini.
  • They are also critical to the reproduction of nearly 90 percent of flowering plants (i.e., most plants on the face of the Earth).
  • Further losses of pollinators not only jeopardize our food security, but also the survival of our ecosystems.

Economic value of pollination for crops

  • The role of pollinators in enhancing biodiversity and increasing crop yield is so significant that its economic value is worth billions of dollars.

What’s triggering the Pollinator apocalypse?

There are several causes for the decline in the number of pollinators. Most of them are the result of an increase in human activities:

  • Land-use change and fragmentation
  • Changes in agricultural practices including use of chemical pesticides, fungicides and insecticides
  • Change in the cropping pattern and crops like the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and mono-cropping
  • High environmental pollution from heavy metals and nitrogen
  • Growth of invasive alien species

Way forward

The only way forward is to “stabilise carbon emissions and hold warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

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