Plants are static organisms: That means they cannot move around. To reproduce, they must either self-pollinate or use external vectors to carry their male gametes (transported as pollen) from one flower to another, fertilizing the female parts in each flower.
While wind and water carry some pollen, animals help to pollinate an estimated 87.5 % of flowering plant species. These animals come in many shapes, sizes and numbers.
As many as 200,000 different animal species are thought to act as pollinators, though some estimates put this figure as high as 350,000. Around 1,000 are vertebrates, including small mammals (such as bats or some marsupials like the Small Pygmy Possum from Oceania) and birds.
Insects are the dominant pollinators in agricultural systems – and bees top this list, providing pollination services for many of our crops.
As you can see, our diet would be a lot less attractive without bees and other insects and lack vital minerals and vitamins which help keep us healthy. However, we would not starve, as important staple food crops like cereals (e.g. wheat, oats), potatoes, rice and corn are not pollinated by insects.
// Of the 115 leading global crops consumed by humans, 87 rely on animal pollination, to some degree.
// 35 percent of the crops we eat, in terms of the volume produced globally, depend on animal pollination, to some extent.
// It is estimated that five to eight percent of global crop production, with an annual market value of 235 billion – 577 billion US dollars, is directly attributable to animal pollination.
The figures indicate the extent to which animal pollination enhances the quantity and quality of many crops, increasing their value to farmers. And for the millions of people across the world who rely on pollinator-dependent agricultural crops for their livelihoods, this is important.
But not all bee species are important for agriculture. When we look across crops, years and regions, a small number of common species dominate: This means that 80 % of crop pollination is provided by only 2 % of bee species and threatened or rare species are rarely observed in crop fields.