2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Brazilian scientists have proposed the concept of virtual pollination - taking into account all externalities associated with biotic pollination that arise in the production of agricultural export products. The research results are collected on a separate portal and reflected in the form of an interactive map. They point to actual imports of pollination from developing countries to developed countries and the associated risks of biodiversity loss. The article was published in the journal Science Advances.
Pollination is a valuable ecosystem service that is important both for crop production and for the conservation of biodiversity in natural landscapes. About 75 percent of crop species and 35 percent of their world production depend on biotic spraying, for which insects, birds, bats and other animals are responsible. At the same time, participants in the world market for agricultural products unequally support and bear responsibility for pollination. In developed countries, there is a growing demand for healthy diets, which include the inclusion of pollination-dependent foods (such as almonds, cocoa, coffee, passionfruit and soybeans) in the diet. Such crops are grown by developing countries that constantly increase the area of land for plowing and oppress the wild plants of neighboring ecosystems, distracting pollinators from them.
Pollination cases produced by an individual insect during its life in two landscapes. (A) Half of the area is occupied by intensively managed crops that are attractive to pollinators and unsuitable for pollinator nesting and egg laying. (B) Half of the area is occupied by intensively managed crops that are unattractive to pollinators and unsuitable for pollinator nesting and egg laying. During the flowering period of crops, some pollinators prefer to seek resources in intensively cultivated fields rather than obtaining such resources from wild plants.
Scientists led by F. D. S. Silva of the University of Education, Science and Technology of Mato Grosso studied the relationship between pollination and biodiversity in ecosystems adjacent to cropland. They proposed to describe pollination as an ecosystem service using the concept of virtual pollination (similar to virtual water) - taking into account pollination and all associated externalities when exporting goods. To create this concept, the study used FAO data on international trade in 55 insect-pollinated crops in 235 countries from 2001 to 2015. The export of each of these crops entails their pollination and the response of nearby ecosystems to the growing scarcity of this ecosystem service for them - these are multidirectional factors that account for virtual pollination, showing the unaccounted for benefits of pollination and the responsibility for it for all market participants. The authors have created an interactive map to show the flows of virtual pollination around the world.
Virtual pollination flows for agricultural exports from Brazil from 2001 to 2015
The study confirmed that developed countries actually import pollination services from developing countries. The climate of developed countries is most often not suitable for pollinating insects, and their agriculture is focused on crops that are suitable for wind pollination (for example, wheat). At the same time, prices for finished goods do not take into account externalities in the form of damage to local ecosystems, and in general, developing countries do not develop economic and legal instruments that would stimulate sustainable land use. Due to the high demand for products, there is a risk that plowed land will continue to expand, with both direct and indirect damage to the biodiversity of local ecosystems due to deteriorating pollination.
The authors noted that the assessment of virtual pollination will help to be applied in the development of new global socio-economic policies. As measures for effective pollination management, they proposed the introduction of precision farming (that is, increasing the productivity of lands, which will avoid their expansion), the use of hedges and flower stripes within the fields.
Agricultural producers' priorities not only affect biodiversity, but can also contribute to climate change. So, the production of sugar cane is growing in the world due to the increase in demand for biofuel, while each hectare of such crops annually releases into the air 2.26 kilograms of nitrous oxide - a dangerous greenhouse gas.