Insect pollinators boost the market price of culturally important crops: holly, mistletoe and the spirit of Christmas
Animal pollination is a vital ecological process in both natural and agricultural ecosystems. Economic valuation studies have demonstrated that pollination services may underpin a significant proportion of global crop market outputs. However these assessments are probably under-estimates because they have rarely included non-food crops, for which very few data are currently available. In particular, culturally symbolic plants have received no attention. Here we show that pollinators have considerable economic benefits to sales of European holly and mistletoe, two seasonal cultural crops that are almost wholly dependent upon insect pollinators for the production of ornamental berries. Analyses of a time series of auction records spanning 11 years indicates that wholesale prices paid for holly with berries are twice those paid for the crop without berries, whilst mistletoe with berries sells for almost three times the price of the crop lacking fruit. The benefits of this insect pollination ecosystem service to this market are therefore considerable. These findings demonstrate that pollinators can play a significant role in adding value to crops that provide resources other than food. In the future such crops should be included in assessments of regional and global value of animal pollination to increase the accuracy of assessments of the value of pollination as an ecosystem service. Our results also support arguments for continued efforts to conserve pollinator diversity and abundance in agro-ecological systems, not least for their contribution as providers of ecosystem services.
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