According to new research, bees, butterflies and other creatures serve as natural pollinators for many plants in the world, while also playing a large role in human nutrition and health.
Researchers argue in their work that pollinators support crops that provide essential nutrients in the most undernourished regions of the world.
For this reason, they affirm that regions with food shortages and nutritional deficiencies may be especially affected by the global decline of bees and other pollinators.
Many of the crops that depend on natural pollinators - they point out - are the richest in vitamins and minerals essential for human health.
The team of scientists, biologists, and nutritionists collected data on nutrient content, pollination dependence, and regional agricultural production in over a hundred of the world's most common food crops.
The researchers found that the regions most dependent on pollination to provide nutrients have a high prevalence of malnutrition and poverty.
When considering data from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the global distribution of vitamin A and iron, they found that regions with a high prevalence of nutritional deficiencies overlap with areas that are most dependent on pollinators for delivery of those nutrients.
Vitamin A deficiency is associated with vision loss and increased mortality, while iron deficiency is associated with pregnancy complications and developmental problems and risk of death in children.