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Curr Biol. 2008 Oct 28;18(20):1572-5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.08.066.

Long-term global trends in crop yield and production reveal no current pollination shortage but increasing pollinator dependency.

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Laboratorio Ecotono, INIBIOMA-CONICET and Centro Regional Bariloche, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Quintral 1250, 8400 Bariloche Río Negro, Argentina.


There is evidence that pollinators are declining as a result of local and global environmental degradation [1-4]. Because a sizable proportion of the human diet depends directly or indirectly on animal pollination [5], the issue of how decreases in pollinator stocks could affect global crop production is of paramount importance [6-8]. Using the extensive FAO data set [9], we compared 45 year series (1961-2006) in yield, and total production and cultivated area of pollinator-dependent and nondependent crops [5]. We investigated temporal trends separately for the developed and developing world because differences in agricultural intensification, and socioeconomic and environmental conditions might affect yield and pollinators [10-13]. Since 1961, crop yield (Mt/ha) has increased consistently at average annual growth rates of approximately 1.5%. Temporal trends were similar between pollinator-dependent and nondependent crops in both the developed and developing world, thus not supporting the view that pollinator shortages are affecting crop yield at the global scale. We further report, however, that agriculture has become more pollinator dependent because of a disproportionate increase in the area cultivated with pollinator-dependent crops. If the trend toward favoring cultivation of pollinator-dependent crops continues, the need for the service provided by declining pollinators will greatly increase in the near future.

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