Half of European Bumblebees In Decline, Quarter Face Extinction – Study

Written by on April 2, 2014 in Environment, Wildlife with 0 Comments

RT | April 2nd 2014

beeAlmost one-quarter of European crops’ vital pollinators – bumblebees – could die out in the coming years, as half of the species are declining, a new study says. Citing human factor and climate change, it warns of “serious implications” for agriculture.

A preview of the recent European Commission-funded study, published on the website of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Wednesday, says it has some “bad news” for Europe’s bumblebees.

As much as 46 percent of the 68 bumblebee species living in Europe have a declining population and just 13 percent are increasing in numbers, the study shows. According to IUCN, 24 percent of those species are “threatened with extinction.”

The study, which contributes to the European Red List of pollinators and is part of the Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) project, stresses that three of the five “most important insect pollinators of European crops” are bumblebee species.

Bumblebees have for thousands of years played a “critical role” in agriculture as they help crops reproduce by transferring pollen from plant to plant. However, as agriculture and urban development have intensified in recent years and cultivated land has been changed, bumblebees have been hit by the loss of habitat and the loss of their preferred forage, as well as pollution and insecticides.


The population of critically endangered Bombus cullumanus, for example, has declined by more than 80 percent over the last decade alone, according to the study. Once widespread in Europe, the so-called Cullum’s Bumblebee now survives only “in a few scattered locations,” much due to the mass removing of its favorite clovers from farming practices.

A beef-up in agriculture has also been blamed by the study’s authors for the shrinking population of the endangered Bombus fragrans (Steppe Bumblebee), whose native habitat is being “destroyed” in Ukraine and parts of Russia.

Increasing temperatures and long periods of drought brought about by climate change are also responsible for “major changes” in the insects’ habitat. Those species living in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, like the Scandinavian tundra and Russia’s extreme north, are vulnerable to a dramatic decline, the study concludes.

‘22 billion euro a year’

Scientists have been “very concerned” with the findings of the study, Ana Nieto, European biodiversity officer of IUCN and the study’s coordinator, said, adding that “such a high proportion of threatened bumblebees can have serious implications for our food production.”

According to Simon Potts, coordinator of STEP, this shows an increasing threat to Europe’s “natural capital,” an essential part of which is “the contribution of bumblebees to food security and the maintenance of wider plant biodiversity.”

The study itself offers an even more striking assessment of this “capital.”

Together with other pollinators, bumblebees contribute “more than 22 billion euros [over US$30 billion] to European agriculture per year,” according to IUCN.

The EU’s top environment official, Janez Potocnik, said the EU has already banned or restricted the use of certain pesticides dangerous for pollinators, but their efforts “clearly need to be scaled up.”

Potocnik believes the solution lies in “mainstreaming of biodiversity into other policies” and in raising awareness about the benefits that bumblebees bring.

According to Nieto, the negative trends can be reversed by “protecting bumblebee species and habitats, restoring degraded ecosystems and promoting biodiversity-friendly agricultural practice.”

More precisely, such measures may include “increasing the margins and buffer strips around agricultural fields that are rich in flowers and wildlife and the preservation of grasslands.”

Calls for awareness of bumblebees’ plight come as the EU strategy to halt biodiversity loss remains under review. The previously approved plan, set by EU leaders in March 2010, must be “fully implemented,” IUCN has stressed.

More from RT

Tags: , , ,

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on YouTube

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Many of the articles on this site contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental issues, human rights, economic and political democracy, and issues of social justice. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. If you wish to use such copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use'...you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. And, if you are a copyright owner who wishes to have your content removed, let us know via the "Contact Us" link at the top of the site, and we will promptly remove it.

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Conscious Life News assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms.

Paid advertising on Conscious Life News may not represent the views and opinions of this website and its contributors. No endorsement of products and services advertised is either expressed or implied.
Top

Send this to a friend