Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Economic Consequences of Pollinator Declines: A Synthesis

Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Economic Consequences of Pollinator Declines: A Synthesis

Article excerpt

This paper surveys the literature on pollinator declines and related concerns regarding global food security. Methods for valuing the economic risks associated with pollinator declines are also reviewed. A computable general equilibrium (CGE) approach is introduced to assess the effects of a global catastrophic loss of pollinators. There appears to be evidence supporting a trend towards future pollinator shortages in the United States and other regions of the world. Results from the CGE model show economic risks to both direct crop sectors and indirect noncrop sectors in the economy, with some amount of regional heterogeneity.

Key Words: ecosystem services, pollinators, food security, valuation, computable general equilibrium modeling

This paper deals with the impacts on the economy of changes in the supply of the services provided by natural ecosystems. A key challenge for research on this topic is the multifaceted nature of ecosystem services, in terms of not only the scope of benefits they provide to society, but also their own characteristics and the channels through which their influence is felt. Even if we restrict the scope of our investigation to agriculture, the myriad ecosystem services provided to and generated by the sector (see, for example, Zhang et al. 2007) are too numerous to rigorously review in a single article-length manuscript. Thus, rather than give a broad and superficial overview of the topic, we focus in more depth on a single welldefined service: pollination, whose primary impact on the economy is through the productivity of a comparatively narrow slate of crops. We synthesize the literature on pollinator declines with the objective of characterizing the associated risks, and quantifying what those risks might mean in terms of adverse shocks to yields in different crop categories and regions. We then briefly review existing methods for valuing such shocks before introducing a novel general equilibrium assessment approach and highlighting a few of its preliminary results.

Pollination is a valuable ecosystem service, providing a variety of benefits including food and fiber, plant-derived medicines, ornamentals and other aesthetics, genetic diversity, and overall ecosystem resilience (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2003, Naban and Buchmann 1997). The issue of pollinator declines began to receive widespread attention in 2006 when the popular press reported on the mysterious disappearances of managed honey bee colonies across the United States. Bees were leaving their colonies in search of pollen and nectar-a typical day of work for a honey bee-but not returning to the hive. There does not appear to be any single pest or pathogen responsible for this phenomenon, which scientists have named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and the United States is currently spending millions of dollars to investigate its potential causes and to develop management guidelines and mitigation strategies (Pettis and Delaplane 2010).

At the global scale, declines in pollinator populations and species diversity more broadly have raised concerns regarding potential risks to global food security and economic development, particularly in countries where agriculture is a large portion of the economy (Kluser and Peduzzi 2007, Steffan-Dewenter, Potts, and Packer 2005, Allen- Wardell et al. 1998). From an ecological perspective, pollinator declines present additional risks to ecosystem stability and loss of biodiversity, not only of the pollinator species themselves but also the plants they pollinate (Biesmeijer et al. 2006, Kearns, Inouye, and Waser 1998). Evidence exists of local and regional declines of both managed and wild insect pollinators (vanEngelsdorp and Meixner 2010, NRC 2007, Potts et al. 2010), which appear to be a result of pests, diseases, pesticides, habitat destruction, and agricultural intensification (Le Feon et al. 2010, vanEngelsdorp and Meixner 2010, Winfree et al. 2009, Kremen, Williams, and Thorp 2002, Cunningham 2000). …

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