PollinatorsEcologists have warned, for many years, of the threat posed by the decline of pollinating insects. Increasing survival risks for bees and other important insects are making it harder for these very important components of the natural cycle to survive. This means that we could lose crops like apples, berries, and coffee. While that will result in industrial and businesses losses in the billions of dollars, annually, it will also, of course, reduce access to food.

A new study warns that several factors are contributing to the loss of pollinators. Pesticides, of course, can kill them, but farming and city planning has also reduce the habitats of these insects. Similarly, human influence has also increased the rate of disease and climate change, which now threatens as much as 20,000 bee species—as well as other pollinating creatures such as beetles, bats, birds, and butterflies—which help to fertilize flowers by spreading pollen.

According the lead author of a new report, Zakri Abdul Hamid, “Pollinators are critical to the global economy and human health,” adding that the researchers found somewhere between $235 billion and $577 billion of the world’s food output—at current market prices—depended drastically upon natural pollinators.

The 124-nation International Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has been modeled on the existing U.N. panel on climate change. In their report, the group says, “Regional and national assessments of insect pollinators indicate high levels of threat, particularly for bees and butterflies,” listing that, in Europe for example, approximately 9 percent of bee and butterfly species are presently threatened with extinction.

Specifically, the study points to the survival risk imposed by neonicotinoids. These chemicals have been linked to damaging effects in both North America as well as Europe, but the report also advises that there the information is yet incomplete as there are many gaps in the data. Thus we do not quite yet know the long-term impact.

Report co-chair Simon Potts, a University of Reading professor, does attest, though, “It’s definitely harmful to wild bees, and we don’t know what it means for populations over time.”

But while the data suggests the times are hard, it also indicates that the outlook is not quite so bleak. Zakri says there is still hope: “The good news is that a number of steps can be taken to reduce the risks.”