EU Science Hub

Europe's pollination potential for food crops mapped and assessed by JRC scientists

Bee pollinating a flower Insect pollination is necessary for up to 84% of European cultivated crop species.
©pinzino (Stock.xchng), 2009
Oct 14 2013

A recent article by JRC scientists published in the journal Land has mapped and assessed the pollination potential for food crops at European scale. This helps estimate the contribution of wild pollinator insects to crop production and identify landscape areas in Europe with a deficit in potential pollination. Assessing large-scale patterns of the availability of pollination services and identifying potential mismatches with the demand of agricultural crops could be used in EU and national agricultural and biodiversity policies.

By assessing the capacity of land cover to provide crop pollination by short-flight distance pollinators, our scientists found that the yield of food crops pollinated by insects, such as bees, could fall by 25-32% if such pollination were no longer available. This finding strengthens the argument that biodiversity and ecosystem services are crucial to food security and human welfare, and must be protected.

Insect pollination is necessary for up to 75% of global crops that are used as human food, and for 84% of European cultivated crop species. JRC scientists from the Institute for Environment and Sustainability developed an index of relative pollination potential (RPP), which is defined as the relative capacity of ecosystems to support crop pollination. For this, they applied data on European land cover, land use, and climate to the RPP index model and linked this to regional crop production statistics. RPP is found to be higher in warmer areas with high nesting suitability that offer abundant foraging resources such as nectar-carrying plants and flowers.

While available data on the subject is limited, it has been found that pollinator diversity and abundance has fallen significantly over the past decadesdue to habitat loss and agricultural intensification. In order to address this issue, the EU Biodiversity Strategy calls for EU Member States to map and assess the state and economic value of ecosystems and their services in their national territory by 2014, with a view to integrating these into EU and national accounting and reporting systems by 2020.