Section: Ecology
Topic: Ecology, Biology of interactions, Environmental sciences

Being a tree crop increases the odds of experiencing yield declines irrespective of pollinator dependence

10.24072/pcjournal.305 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article no. e69.

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Crop yields, i.e. harvestable production per unit of cropland area, are in decline for a number of crops and regions, but the drivers of this process are poorly known. Global decreases in pollinator abundance and diversity have been proposed as a major driver of yield declines in crops that depend on animals, mostly bees, to produce fruits and seeds. Alternatively, widespread tree mortality has been directly and indirectly related to global climate change, which could also explain yield decreases in tree crops. As tree crops are expected to be more dependent on pollinators than other crop types, disentangling the relative influence of growth form and pollinator dependence is relevant to identify the ultimate factors driving yield declines. Yield decline, defined here as a negative average annual yearly change in yield from 1961 to 2020, was measured in 4270 time series, involving 136 crops and 163 countries and territories. About one‑fourth of all time series showed declines in crop yield, a characteristic associated with both high pollinator dependence and a tree growth form. Because pollinator dependence and plant growth form were partially correlated, we disentangled the effect of each of these two predictors using a series of generalized linear mixed models that evaluated direct and indirect associations. Our analyses revealed a stronger association of yield decline with growth form than with pollinator dependence, a relationship that persisted after partialling out the effect of pollinator dependence. In particular, yield declines were more common among tree than herbaceous and shrub crops in all major regions but in Africa, a continent showing a high incidence of yield declines irrespective of growth form. These results suggest that pollinator decline is not the main reason behind crop productivity loss, but that other factors such as climate change could be already affecting crop yield.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.305
Type: Research article
Keywords: agriculture; climate change; growth form; pollination crisis; pollinator decline; pollinator dependence; tree crops; tree mortality; yield decline

Aizen, Marcelo A. 1, 2; Gleiser, Gabriela 1, 3; Kitzberger, Thomas A. 1; Milla, Ruben 4

1 Instituto de Investigaciones en Biodiversidad y Medioambiente (INIBIOMA), Universidad Nacional del Comahue-CONICET, Pasaje Gutiérrez 1415, 8400 San Carlos de Bariloche, Río Negro, Argentina
2 Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Wallotstrasse 19, 14193 Berlin, Germany
3 Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación (CSIC-UV-GV), Ctra Moncada-Náquera km4.5, 46113 Moncada, Valencia, Spain
4 Departamento de Biología, Geología, Física y Química Inorgánica, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Tulipán s/n, 28933 Móstoles, Spain
License: CC-BY 4.0
Copyrights: The authors retain unrestricted copyrights and publishing rights
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Aizen, Marcelo A.; Gleiser, Gabriela; Kitzberger, Thomas A.; Milla, Ruben. Being a tree crop increases the odds of experiencing yield declines irrespective of pollinator dependence. Peer Community Journal, Volume 3 (2023), article  no. e69. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.305.

PCI peer reviews and recommendation, and links to data, scripts, code and supplementary information: 10.24072/pci.ecology.100537

Conflict of interest of the recommender and peer reviewers:
The recommender in charge of the evaluation of the article and the reviewers declared that they have no conflict of interest (as defined in the code of conduct of PCI) with the authors or with the content of the article.

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