Sunday, November 23, 2008

Debate: Which is the World's Most Invaluable Species?

Plankton, bats, primates, fungi and bees - which species would have the greatest impact on our planet if it were lost?
By Jessica Aldred, The Guardian (UK), 11/14/2008

Bees - 'Bees are irreplaceable. Their loss will be catastrophic'
Dr George McGavin of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History

The partnership between flowering plants and pollinating insects, especially bees, is one of the most widespread and significant symbiotic interactions on Earth. This 100m-year-old collaboration has spawned a rich diversity of species and promoted the rise to dominance of humans.

Now the need to feed our burgeoning population, coupled with the agricultural means to that end – a plethora of pesticides, the unabated loss of natural habitat and the translocation of alien species and diseases - are driving wild and managed bee populations into a very steep decline. Seventy percent of the crop species eaten by humans depend wholly or partly on pollination and recent estimates put the economic value of insect pollination at over £121 billion ($192bn) - representing at least 10% of the value of the world's agricultural production.

Bees are irreplaceable and the debate about what might happen if they disappeared is no longer academic. We have set in motion processes that may lead to the extinction of the planet's most important pollinators along with countless other species that depend on them. Not only will the world be a much less colourful place, it will also be poorer in every other way imaginable. The effects will be nothing short of catastrophic...

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