Ecosystem services including pollination mediated by insects are crucial to industrial communities and yet remain largely unaccounted for in life cycle assessment studies. While renewable natural resources are considered limitless, the overconsumption and degradation of ecosystem goods and services beyond the rate of replenishment threaten the sustainability of many of these services and the industries that rely upon them. Wild and managed species of insects provide several valuable ecosystem services including the pollination of the worldâs angiosperms which is instrumental to human nutrition and industrial activities. Dependence on pollination services has grown as demand and production of pollination-dependent crops increases. Simultaneously, the biomass and biodiversity of all insects have faced significant declines due to a number of stressors including increased pesticide use, climate change, pests, and diseases. Insect-mediated pollination accounts for over 36 billion US dollars of pollination-dependent crop production alone making the ecosystem service a highly valuable asset to the economic welfare of the agricultural sector. In addition, there are related sectors that depend upon pollination-dependent crop production (fertilizers, pesticides, equipment) as well as non-agricultural industry sectors (pharmaceutical, fuel, real estate) that share linkages with crop production and agricultural sectors, leading to intricate indirect dependence upon pollination service mediated by both commercially-managed and wild species of bees and other insects throughout the economy. Our previous work highlighted that indirect value of pollination service can be up to an additional 65 percent of the direct value of crops attributable to pollination service by insects. Given the considerable indirect impacts of pollination service on many industry sectors, it is important to include the impact of insect pollinators when considering processes or products on a life cycle basis.
We present an environmentally-extended input-output framework for quantifying the dependence on insect pollinators in life cycle assessment (LCA) through the incorporation of a new environmental vector. Reviewing available literature, we assess the pollination requirements for each of 75 pollination-dependent crops grown in the US. Using publicly available data from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) NASS (National Agricultural Statistics Service), the pollination requirements of each crop, and BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis) 2012 Benchmark I-O (Input-Output) account data, we quantify the honey bee hive requirements for each agricultural sector growing pollination-dependent crops. This information is used to develop an environmental vector (E) for managed honey bees. This new environmental vector allows for assessment of both direct and indirect impacts of managed insect pollinators in product and process life cycle assessment. Further, it makes an important step toward valuing the impacts of ecosystem services in life cycle assessment. It also highlights the industrial sectors with the highest dependence on insect pollinators. These results provide better understanding of the role of insect pollinators in life cycles of agricultural and non-agricultural products and processes, while highlighting the need for data concerning the role of wild insect pollinators. The implications of these findings for quantifying the value of ecosystem services in product and process life cycles will be described.