Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Robust network of insect pollinators may collapse suddenly

The global decline of bees, hoverflies and other pollinators pose a serious threat to food security and biodiversity.

A team of scientists from Wageningen University, Netherlands, and Doñana Biological Station show in the prestigious journal Ecology Letters that a further deterioration of conditions for pollinators may lead to the sudden extinction of numerous species.

Many plant species depend for the production of seed and fruit upon pollinators that carry pollen grains from flower to flower. In return for this hard labor, pollinators receive nectar from plants.

Plants are visited by a large number of pollinator species and pollinators visit many different plant species. All these relations together form a robust network of interactions between plants and pollinators.

These networks have a characteristic structure that is similar in very different natural landscapes, such as rainforests and river deltas, as well as in human-dominated landscapes with orchards, fields and meadows. Plants and pollinators take a position within those networks that makes the benefit from their mutual relationships for each species individually, and for all plants and pollinators together, as large as possible.

Increasingly harsh conditions

Worldwide, pollinators are under pressure from insecticides, loss of habitat, parasites and disease. These drivers of pollinator decline make it increasingly difficult for pollinators to survive.

The scientists of Wageningen University show, with the help of mathematical models, that the implications of a further deterioration of conditions for pollinators, is strongly influenced by the way in which interaction networks are put together. Due to the structure of these networks, pollinator species support each other under difficult circumstances. Pollinator species that live in the same area may therefore maintain themselves under more difficult conditions.

Tipping Point

Pollinator species are, however, also highly depended on each other when circumstances are harsh. The pollinator community, consisting of bees, butterflies, hoverflies and many other species, may therefore collapse entirely when increasingly harsh conditions pass a critical point. Recovery after conditions have past such a tipping point might not be easy. The required improvement in conditions could be substantially larger than what is needed to return to conditions at which the pollinator community collapsed.

Globally, about eighty percent of plant species depends on pollination by insects and other animals. These include a large number of crops that are important for the production of vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices and oilseed. The direct contribution of pollinators the world food production is estimated at 150 billion Euros (200 billion USD).

J. Jelle Lever, Egbert H. van Nes, Marten Scheffer, and Jordi Bascompte, 2014. The sudden collapse of pollinator communities. Ecology Letters, online 3 January 2014.

Wageningen University is part of Wageningen UR (University & Research centre). The mission is ‘To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life’. Within Wageningen UR, nine research institutes both specialised and applied have joined forces with Wageningen University to help answer the most important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment. With approximately 30 locations (in the Netherlands, Brazil, Chile, Ethiopia and China), 6,000 members of staff and 9,000 students, Wageningen UR is one of the leading organisations in its domain worldwide. The integral approach to problems and the cooperation between the exact sciences and the technological and social disciplines are at the heart of the Wageningen Approach.

J. Jelle Lever | Wageningen University
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Understanding a missing link in how antidepressants work
25.11.2015 | Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, München

nachricht Plant Defense as a Biotech Tool
25.11.2015 | Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (ACIB)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

Im Focus: Climate Change: Warm water is mixing up life in the Arctic

AWI researchers’ unique 15-year observation series reveals how sensitive marine ecosystems in polar regions are to change

The warming of arctic waters in the wake of climate change is likely to produce radical changes in the marine habitats of the High North. This is indicated by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Harnessing a peptide holds promise for increasing crop yields without more fertilizer

25.11.2015 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Earth's magnetic field is not about to flip

25.11.2015 | Earth Sciences

Tracking down the 'missing' carbon from the Martian atmosphere

25.11.2015 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>