Blame ‘climate chaos’ for pushing bumblebees to extinction
According to the study, the likelihood of a bee being found in any given place in Europe and North America has declined by a third since the 1970s.
Scientists say that rising temperatures are contributing to widespread losses of bumblebees across continents at rates "consistent with a mass extinction", threatening food cultivation.
According to a new study, the likelihood of a bee being found in any given place in Europe and North America has declined by a third since the 1970s.
The results of a long-term analysis of bumblebee populations were published in the Science journal on Thursday.
Climbing temperatures will increasingly cause declines, which are already more severe than previously thought, said researchers.
Why bumblebees are important?
Bumblebees are key pollinators of many fruits, vegetables and wild plants. They play an important role in producing healthy fruits or seeds for three quarters of the crops that feed people, according to the United Nations.
The researchers estimated that Europe's bumblebee populations fell by 17% between the two periods the study looked at - from 1901 to 1974 and from 2000 to 2014 - while in North America, the figure was 46%.
"We couldn't believe that the declines were this severe over such a short time period," said scientist Peter Soroye, lead author of the study and a PhD student at University of Ottawa.
"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. They're really severe," he was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Though declining bee populations have also been linked to heavy pesticide use and habitat loss caused by changes in land use, Soroye says global warming is exacerbating their plight.
Hardest-hit areas in terms of bee population
Bees have been hardest hit in southern regions such as Spain and Mexico due to more frequent extreme warm years. And, while populations have expanded into cooler northern regions, this has not been enough to compensate for the losses, says the BBC.
If this trend of bees’ population decline continues, nutritious fruits, nuts and many vegetables would have to be substituted by staple crops like rice, corn, and potatoes, leading to an imbalanced diet, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned in 2019.
Much larger declines are "likely if climate change accelerates in the coming years", the study's co-author Tim Newbold from the University College London said in a statement.
The 10-year period from 2010-2019 is likely to be the hottest decade on record, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization said recently.
There are around 250 species of bumblebee in the world. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that declines have noticed in Europe, North America, South America, and Asia. The reasons range from habitat loss and degradation to diseases and pesticide use.