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Environment

Don't Swat Them! Insectoid Pollinators are Worth $217 Billion

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The news this week is all about financial trouble, and even science can't escape. Often when a species is in trouble, their plight tugs only at the heartstrings of people who want to save them; polar bears are of little practical use to us. But colony collapse disorder, which has been wrecking bee populations around the world, goes right to our wallets. In a new study, French and German scientists calculated that pollinators are worth about $217 billion to the world economy, which would be lost if bees and other pollinators keep disappearing. Since not all plants are pollinated by insects, the disappearance of pollinators wouldn't mean the sudden disappearance of all agriculture (thankfully). The scientists say that their estimate for pollinators' value amounts to 9.5 percent of the world's total agricultural production. But, they say, insect-pollinated plants tend to have higher prices than other plants, meaning their loss would hit economies especially hard. In sum, about three-quarters of flowering plants rely on pollination, whether by bees, birds, or other animals, according to the National Academy of Sciences (pdf). So add that to your economic checklist: Bring some sanity to Wall Street, stabilize housing prices, and save the bees.

Image: flickr/Wolfpix

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