Pollinators provide an essential ecosystem service, namely pollination. Indeed, approximately 80 percent of all flowering plant species are pollinated by animals, including vertebrates and mammals - but the main pollinators are insects. Pollination is responsible for providing us with a wide variety of food, mainly horticultural crops. In fact, pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, as well as many plant-derived medicines.
At least one-third of the world's agricultural crops depends upon pollination provided by insects and other animals.
Pollination is a keystone process in both human managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems. Is an essential service that depends to a large extent on the symbiosis between species, the pollinated and the pollinator. In many cases, it is the result of intricate relationships between plants and animals, and the reduction or loss of either will affect the survival of both. Pollination is critical for food production and human livelihoods, and directly links wild ecosystems with agricultural production systems.
Human activity, based on the assumption that pollination is a free and abundantly available ecological service, has put a large pressure on pollinators by both increasing their demand and removing their habitat. Horticulture has rapidly expanded over the last decades, while the landscape has become more uniform due to intensive agriculture. Lack of pollination has increased awareness of the value and management requirements of this service. Effective pollination requires resources, such as refuges of pristine natural vegetation. Where these are reduced or lost, pollinators are becoming scarce and adaptive management practices will be required to sustain food production.
The International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators was established by the 5th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a cross cutting initiative within its work on agricultural biodiversity. FAO was invited by the Executive Secretary to "facilitate and co-ordinate the initiative in co-operation with other relevant organizations who were invited to support actions in countries subject to pollinator decline."
The FAO Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture provides guidance to member countries and relevant tools to use and conserve pollination services that sustain agro-ecosystem functions.