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Climate change seen causing mass extinction of bumblebees

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Christian Fernsby ▼ | February 7, 2020
When scientist Peter Soroye first saw the figures showing estimated bumblebee populations in North America had fallen by nearly 50% in a single generation, he thought it must be a typo.
Animals   Bumblebees
He checked the numbers the result of a long term analysis of bumblebee populations published in the journal Science yesterday seven times to be sure they were accurate.

Topics: Climate bumblebee

Rising temperatures are contributing to drastic declines of bumblebees across Europe and North America at rates “consistent with a mass extinction”, threatening food cultivation, the study concluded.

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%.

“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,” said Soroye, lead author of the study and a PhD student at University of Ottawa.

“So I don’t think there’s much discussion right now as to whether we’re in a period of mass extinction.”

The report’s authors “couldn’t believe that the declines were this severe over such a short time period,” Soroye told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone, calling the declines “really severe”.

Declining bee populations have also been linked to heavy pesticide use and habitat loss caused by changes in land use.

But Soroye said global warming was exacerbating their plight.

“This paper in no way absolved ...

“pesticides or habitat loss.

“It’s that climate change is another thing that’s been added to the mix that’s driving this extinction,” he said.

Bumblebees are larger than honeybees, and while they do not produce honey, they are important pollinators.

“When they land on flowers, they physically shake these flowers and shake the pollen off,” said Soroye.

“A lot of crops like squash, berries, tomatoes need bumblebees to pollinate them, and honeybees or other pollinators just can’t do that.”