So where do you look for your vitamin needs? According to a recent global survey of the nutritional content of fruits and vegetables– from animal-pollinated crops–that’s where. An international team of researchers, led by Claire Kremen at the University of California Santa Barbara, compared the levels of key vitamins and other nutrients in pollinator dependent and independent crops. They found:
Crop plants that depend fully or partially on animal pollinators contain more than 90% of vitamin C, the whole quantity of Lycopene and almost the full quantity of the antioxidants β-cryptoxanthin and β-tocopherol, the majority of the lipid, vitamin A and related carotenoids, calcium and fluoride, and a large portion of folic acid.
We already knew that the majority of fruits and vegetable that we love, for the sake of variety and good cuisine, are dependent on animal pollinators. This study drives home the message that animal-pollinated food is also really healthy. Another score for the pollinators.
Yet another key point of this study, and the accompanying press release, is the importance of the services of wild pollinators. While honey bees are often managed and rented for pollination, especially in the US and Europe, this adds another cost to agriculture, that may not be available in developing countries. Thus, developing countries, that would greatly benefit from the production of nutrient-rich crops (i.e. animal-pollinated), may not be able to afford the use of managed honey bees. In principle, this is not a problem, because many type of wild pollinators would LOVE to pollinate our fruits and veggies, and in some cases, they are better pollinators for those crops.
The problem? Wild pollinators live in the WILD, the surrounding environment, that may be polluted with pesticides or even non-existent, due to other human activities. Thus, by destroying our natural habitats, we lose a natural resource that provides its services for free, if we are willing to provide some shelter for the night.