Do Pollinators Contribute to Nutritional Health?

Despite suggestions that animal pollinators are crucial for human nutritional health, no studies have actually tested this claim. Here, we combined data on crop pollination requirements, food nutrient densities, and actual human diets to predict the effects of pollinator losses on the risk of nutrient deficiency. In four developing countries and across five nutrients, we found that 0 to 56% of populations would become newly at risk if pollinators were removed. Increases in risk were most pronounced for vitamin A in populations with moderate levels of total nutrient intake. Overall, the effects of pollinator decline varied widely among populations and nutrients. We conclude that the importance of pollinators to human nutrition depends critically on the composition of local diets, and cannot be reliably predicted from global commodity analyses. We identify conditions under which severe health effects of pollinator loss are most likely to occur.