Over the past decade, bee populations have been dropping, partly as a result of a disease called colony collapse disorder. This is very bad news for humans, because bees are a crucial part of the reproductive cycle of many of our favorite foods, including apples, onions, avocados, and more. This incredible data visualization shows what you'd lose if the world lost bees.
Whole Foods created this image (see full image below) to make an important point that many people miss in discussions about extinction. When a life form goes extinct, it can also cause knock-on extinctions in its ecosystem. Without bees to fertilize fruit and other crops, we lose many species. That's what it means to be part of an ecosystem in the first place: other life forms depend on you, just as you depend on them.
There are a lot of theories about how to bring bees back from their population collapse. One is to reform bee care practices, allowing queens to have multiple mates, creating hives with more robust genetic diversity. Another is to study whether there are microbial changes causing colony collapse — perhaps from viruses or gut bacteria associated with toxins in the environment.
In other words, paying attention to environmental problems is becoming a purely selfish issue. Protecting vulnerable species keeps fruit and vegetables on the table.
Annalee Newitz is the author of the book, Scatter, Adapt and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction. Follow her on Twitter.