New Study Warns Climate Chaos Driving Rapid Decline Of Bumblebees

New Study Warns Climate Chaos Driving Rapid Decline Of Bumblebees

Researchers found that the rate at which bumblebees are declining is "consistent with a mass extinction." (Photo: David A. Hofmann/flickr/cc)

The research "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.

The rising frequency of extremely hot temperatures tied to human-caused global heating is creating "climate chaos" that drives widespread declines of bumblebees, some of the planet's most important pollinators, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

Researchers at the University of Ottawa in Canada and University College London in the United Kingdom developed a new measurement of temperature based on species' heat tolerance. "We have created a new way to predict local extinctions that tells us, for each species individually, whether climate change is creating temperatures that exceed what the bumblebees can handle," explained study co-author Tim Newbold.

The team applied their technique to data on 66 different bumblebee species across North America and Europe collected from 1901 to 1974 and 2000 to 2014. They concluded that more frequent extreme heat "is increasing local extinction rates, reducing colonization and site occupancy, and decreasing species richness within a region, independent of land-use change or condition."

"We found that populations were disappearing in areas where the temperatures had gotten hotter," said the study's lead author, Peter Soroye. "Using our new measurement of climate change, we were able to predict changes both for individual species and for whole communities of bumblebees with a surprisingly high accuracy."

New Study Warns Climate Chaos Driving Rapid Decline Of Bumblebees

The researchers found that the rate at which bumblebees are declining is "consistent with a mass extinction." Over the course of a single human generation, the chances of a local bumblebee population surviving has fallen by an average of more than 30%. Soroye noted that the findings have implications for more than just the bees.

"Our results show that we face a future with many less bumblebees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates."
—Peter Soroye, lead author

"Bumblebees are the best pollinators we have in wild landscapes and the most effective pollinators for crops like tomato, squash, and berries. Our results show that we face a future with many less bumblebees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates," he said. "If declines continue at this pace, many of these species could vanish forever within a few decades."

Although the study serves as a bleak warning about the need for urgent action to address the declines of bumblebees, the authors are hopeful that their technique for gauging the impact of extreme events like droughts and heatwaves can also aid with conservation efforts for other species.

"We've known for a while that climate change is related to the growing extinction risk that animals are facing around the world," Soroye said. "In this paper, we offer an answer to the critical questions of how and why that is. We find that species extinctions across two continents are caused by hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures."

"Perhaps the most exciting element is that we developed a method to predict extinction risk that works very well for bumblebees and could in theory be applied universally to other organisms," he added. "With a predictive tool like this, we hope to identify areas where conservation actions would be critical to stopping declines."

Study co-author Jeremy Kerr said that "predicting why bumblebees and other species are going extinct in a time of rapid, human-caused climate change could help us prevent extinction in the 21st century."

"This work also holds out hope by implying ways that we might take the sting out of climate change for these and other organisms by maintaining habitats that offer shelter, like trees, shrubs, or slopes, that could let bumblebees get out of the heat," he said. "Ultimately, we must address climate change itself and every action we take to reduce emissions will help. The sooner the better. It is in all our interests to do so, as well as in the interests of the species with whom we share the world."

"Ultimately, we must address climate change itself and every action we take to reduce emissions will help. The sooner the better. It is in all our interests to do so, as well as in the interests of the species with whom we share the world."
—Jeremy Kerr, study co-author

In a related "perspective" article published by Science, scientists Jon Bridle of the University of Bristol and Alexandra van Rensburg of the University of Zurich wrote that the new research "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."

Recent reports, including one published in November 2019 by University of Sussex biology professor Dave Goulson, have raised alarm about a decades-long human-caused insect "apocalypse" that has resulted from not only the climate crisis but also habitat loss and pesticide use.

Last month, 73 international scientists released a global roadmap to battle the "bugpocalypse," emphasizing that "insects are key to our own survival." Their recommendations included curbing planet-heating emissions; cutting back synthetic pesticides and fertilizers; limiting light, water, and noise pollution; and preventing the introduction of invasive and alien species.

About The Author

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

This article originally appeared on Common Dreams

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
Methane Emissions Hit Record Breaking Levels
by Josie Garthwaite
Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, research shows.
kelp forrest 7 12
How The Forests Of The World’s Oceans Contribute To Alleviating The Climate Crisis
by Emma Bryce
Researchers are looking to kelp for help storing carbon dioxide far beneath the surface of the sea.
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
Tiny Plankton Drive Processes In The Ocean That Capture Twice As Much Carbon As Scientists Thought
by Ken Buesseler
The ocean plays a major role in the global carbon cycle. The driving force comes from tiny plankton that produce…
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
Climate Change Threatens Drinking Water Quality Across The Great Lakes
by Gabriel Filippelli and Joseph D. Ortiz
“Do Not Drink/Do Not Boil” is not what anyone wants to hear about their city’s tap water. But the combined effects of…
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
by Gregg Howe and Nathan Havko
For millennia, insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle: to eat or not be…
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.

LATEST ARTICLES

Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
Two-thirds Of Glacier Ice In The Himalayas Could Be Lost By 2100
by Ann Rowan
In the world of glaciology, the year 2007 would go down in history. It was the year a seemingly small error in a major…
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
Rising Temps Could Kill Millions A Year By Century’s End
by Edward Lempinen
By the end of this century, tens of millions of people could die each year worldwide as a result of temperatures rising…
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
New Zealand Wants To Build A 100% Renewable Electricity Grid, But Massive Infrastructure Is Not The Best Option
by Janet Stephenson
A proposed multibillion-dollar project to build a pumped hydro storage plant could make New Zealand’s electricity grid…
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
Wind Farms Built On Carbon-rich Peat Bogs Lose Their Ability To Fight Climate Change
by Guaduneth Chico et al
Wind power in the UK now accounts for nearly 30% of all electricity production. Land-based wind turbines now produce…
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
Climate Denial Hasn't Gone Away – Here's How To Spot Arguments For Delaying Climate Action
by Stuart Capstick
In new research, we have identified what we call 12 “discourses of delay”. These are ways of speaking and writing about…
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
Routine Gas Flaring Is Wasteful, Polluting And Undermeasured
by Gunnar W. Schade
If you’ve driven through an area where companies extract oil and gas from shale formations, you’ve probably seen flames…
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
Flight Shaming: How To Spread The Campaign That Made Swedes Give Up Flying For Good
by Avit K Bhowmik
Europe’s major airlines are likely to see their turnover drop by 50% in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,…
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
Will The Climate Warm As Much As Feared By Some?
by Steven Sherwood et al
We know the climate changes as greenhouse gas concentrations rise, but the exact amount of expected warming remains…