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Bumblebees and Narrowing Range: Climate Change is Only Reason

Jul 09, 2015 07:14 PM EDT

In case you wondered if honeybees were squeezed but bumblebees were fairly present in your own garden, it seems that the range of bumblebees is drastically narrowing due to climate change as well. Researchers at the University of Vermont and University of Ottawa recently published their findings from the most comprehensive study conducted yet on the impacts of warming on critical pollinators, in the journal Science.

The scientists examined more than 420,000 historical and current records of many species of bumblebees. In the 110 years of records that they scrutinized, bumblebees have lost about 185 miles from the southern edge of their range in Europe and North America, scientists estimate, according to a release. "The scale and pace of these losses are unprecedented," said University of Ottawa's Jeremy Kerr, in a release.

Bumblebees are also failing to increase territory north of their usual range, the release said. The bees' shrinking range will affect the number of plants that are pollinated, of course. "If we don't stop the decline in the abundance of bumblebees, we may well face higher food prices, diminished varieties, and other troubles," says Leif Richardson, a scientist at the University of Vermont, according to the release.

The scientists eliminated pesticides and land-use changes as culprits; they also noticed that bumblebees are shifting habitat to areas at higher elevation, said a release.

"We need new strategies to help these species cope with the effects of human-caused climate change, perhaps assisting them to shift into northern areas," said Kerr. But the most important message of this study is "the need to halt or reverse climate warming," said Leif Richardson, a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Vermont, according to a release. "These findings could spell trouble for many plants -- including some crops, like blueberries -- that depend on bumblebees for pollination," said Richardson, according to a release. "Bumblebees are crucial to our natural ecosystems."

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