Recent Safeguard paper published in the journal Nature Communications provides a global quantitative review on the effects of animal pollination on several aspects of food quality including both organoleptic characteristics and nutritional value.
Over the years, there have been several global analyses that highlight the crucial role of both managed and wild pollinators in enhancing crop yields and their spatial and temporal stability. However, these analyses only focus on the pollination effect on yield-related measures like fruit set or seed weight, resulting in a lack of a comprehensive global assessment of the role of both managed and wild pollinators in enhancing multiple aspects of food quality.
Addressing this knowledge gap, the research team, amongst whom Safeguard partners Elena Gazzea and Prof. Lorenzo Marini from the University of Padova, conducted a systematic literature survey to identify relevant studies, and used multi-level meta-analytical models to estimate the contribution of animal pollination to several quality traits of 48 globally important crops.
The results of the study show that animal pollination significantly enhances organoleptic and marketability traits of food crops, with a lesser effect on their nutritional values. While current wild and/or managed pollinators are generally sufficient to ensure optimal food quality, there are some weak signals of pollination deficits in agricultural landscapes. The article calls for more manipulative research to explain the variability in the pollination effect on food crop quality.
Given the implications of their findings, the researchers earnestly recommend the urgent adoption of pollinator conservation actions to help maintain food security.
Read the full article here.
Image: Fig. 1 from the article: Schematic visualisation of the pollination metrics used to quantify quality change.