Bee pollination increases yield quantity and quality of cash crops in Burkina Faso, West Africa
Abstract, Scientific Reporst, 2017
Mutualistic biotic interactions as among flowering plants and their animal pollinators are a key component of biodiversity. Pollination, especially by insects, is a key element in ecosystem functioning, and hence constitutes an ecosystem service of global importance. Not only sexual reproduction of plants is ensured, but also yields are stabilized and genetic variability of crops is maintained, counteracting inbreeding depression and facilitating system resilience. While experiencing rapid environmental change, there is an increased demand for food and income security, especially in sub-Saharan communities, which are highly dependent on small scale agriculture. By combining exclusion experiments, pollinator surveys and field manipulations, this study for the first time quantifies the contribution of bee pollinators to smallholders’ production of the major cash crops, cotton and sesame, in Burkina Faso. Pollination by honeybees and wild bees significantly increased yield quantity and quality on average up to 62%, while exclusion of pollinators caused an average yield gap of 37% in cotton and 59% in sesame. Self-pollination revealed inbreeding depression effects on fruit set and low germination rates in the F1-generation. Our results highlight potential negative consequences of any pollinator decline, provoking risks to agriculture and compromising crop yields in sub-Saharan West Africa.