After a hearing a passionate debate among a panel of international scientists over which endangered species is the most important, the audience voted bees. The annual debate sponsored by Earthwatch took place at the Royal Geographical Society in London.
The audience was asked if they had a trillion dollars to spend on the conservation of a single endangered species, which would it be. Five scientists made the cases for five different endangered species, making arguments for why each are invaluable and irreplaceable cornerstones of various ecosystems.
The species were bees, fungi, plankton, primates and bats. While all are essential to keeping their respective ecosystems from collapsing, the potential extinction of bees was voted to be the most disastrous.
Without fungi most terrestrial plants on earth would die, as mycelium transports nutrients from the soil to the plants roots. Plankton are the basis of the entire food web in the ocean. Without bats crops like bananas, mangoes, dates and tequila would fail. They also save millions of dollars on pesticides by consuming so many insects. Non-human primates are a keystone species in maintains tropical and subtropical forests.
Still, bees were voted the most vital.
”Bees are irreplaceable — their loss would be catastrophic,” Dr. George McGavin of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History told The Guardian. 70 percent of crop species eaten by humans depend on pollination by bees.
“The partnership between flowering plants and pollinating insects, especially bees, is one of the most widespread and significant symbiotic interactions on Earth, The Guardian reports. “This 100-million-year-old collaboration has spawned a rich diversity of species and promoted the rise to dominance of humans.”
But it’s not just humans that would suffer. Birds and small mammals feed off the berries and seeds that rely on bee pollination. ”They would die of hunger and in turn their predators – the omnivores or carnivores that continue the food chain would also starve,” says Allison Benjamin, author of A World Without Bees.