Bumblebee Population In ‘Drastic Decline’ Because Of Climate Change
A new study has revealed climate change is responsible for a drastic decline in the bumblebee population across Europe and North America.
The findings come from a long-term study in which researchers looked at more than half a million records of 66 bumblebee species from 1901-1974 and from 2000-2014.
In the latter period, bumblebee populations were found to have declined rapidly, with the likelihood of a bee being found in any given place in Europe and North America dropping by an average of more than 30% compared with 1901-1974.
Dr Tim Newbold of University College London (UCL) implied there was no doubt as to the cause of the decline, saying:
[T]his was the first time that we have been able to really tie local extinctions and colonisations of bumblebees to climate change, showing a really clear fingerprint of climate change in the declines that we’ve seen.
In the study, published on February 6 in journal Science, researchers estimated bumblebee populations fell by 17% in Europe and a shocking 46% in North America between 1901-1974 and 2000- 2014.
Peter Soroye, who was lead researcher on the study, warned bumblebee declines are more severe than previously thought, comparing the loss to the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Speaking to Reuters, he commented:
The last time that we’ve seen a similar kind of rate of extinction was when the asteroid struck the earth and killed the dinosaurs.
Soroye said the new findings ‘in no way absolved’ the role pesticides and habitat loss have played in population declines, but said climate change is simply ‘another thing that’s been added to the mix’.
The scientist went on to admit he was astounded by the findings.
We couldn’t believe that the declines were this severe over such a short time period.
I reckon I must have gone through, like, seven times to double check that everything was right and it was. And so yes, these declines are really drastic.
Bumblebee populations have been worst hit in southern regions, such as Spain and Mexico, as a result of more frequent and extreme warm years.
Populations have expanded in cooler northern regions, but the expansion has not been enough to compensate for the number of insects lost.
Writing in the journal Science, as per the BBC, Jonathan Bridle and Alexandra van Rensburg from the University of Bristol said the findings are part of a bigger picture showing the impact of climate change on the environment.
The new study adds to a growing body of evidence for alarming, widespread losses of biodiversity and for rates of global change that now exceed the critical limits of ecosystem resilience.
Bumblebees are larger than honey bees, and while they do not produce honey they are among the most important plant pollinators.
Without them, some crops could fail, resulting in a loss of food for humans and countless other species.
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