New research connects the contributions of bees and other pollinators to human nutrition around the world. The original researh article "Global malnutrition overlaps with pollinator-dependent micronutrient production" was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Pollinators contribute around 10% of the economic value of crop production globally, but the contribution of these pollinators to human nutrition is potentially much higher. Crops vary in the degree to which they benefit from pollinators, and many of the most pollinator-dependent crops are also among the richest in micronutrients essential to human health. This study examines regional differences in the pollinator dependence of crop micronutrient content and reveals overlaps between this dependency and the severity of micronutrient deficiency in people around the world. As much as 50% of the production of plant-derived sources of vitamin A requires pollination throughout much of Southeast Asia, whereas other essential micronutrients such as iron and folate have lower dependencies, scattered throughout Africa, Asia and Central America. Micronutrient deficiencies are three times as likely to occur in areas of highest pollination dependence for vitamin A and iron, suggesting that disruptions in pollination could have serious implications for the accessibility of micronutrients for public health. These regions of high nutritional vulnerability are understudied in the pollination literature, and should be priority areas for research related to ecosystem services and human well-being.
Original article available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.1799