Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Bumble Bee Ranges Rapidly Shrinking across Continents Due to Climate Change

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Bumble Bee Ranges Rapidly Shrinking across Continents Due to Climate Change

Article excerpt

Study finds continental climate impact on bees


OTTAWA - Climate change appears to be shrinking the range of bumble bees across the northern hemisphere, depriving the natural environment and agricultural producers of a key pollinator, according to a massive new study.

Researchers from Canada, Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States used 110 years of scientific data to reveal that bumble bees are not migrating north like some other species as the climate warms, but are losing habitat in the south.

"Bumble bee species across Europe and North America are declining at continental scales and our data suggests climate change plays a critical role in this trend," biologist and lead author Jeremy Kerr of the University of Ottawa said at a briefing.

"The rates of loss are very rapid and are nearly the same across continents."

Bees are being crushed in a kind of "climate vice," said Kerr, the university's research chair in macroecology and conservation, quickly losing the ability to survive on the southern edges of their ranges while being slow to move north.

The study geotagged 420,000 observations of 67 species of bumble bees from 1901 to 2010 and combined information with climate data, land-use data and pesticide-use records.

"This is big data," said ecologist Paul Galpern of the University of Calgary, adding the study's authors are making their data and computer code available to researchers around the world.

After establishing a baseline of bumble bee habitat from 1901 to 1974, the study observed significant changes as climate warming caused by human activity became evident.

The findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, suggest bumble bees are losing nine kilometres of their southern ranges per year and have lost about 300 kilometres of range to date -- both in Europe and North America.

The study found that the impact of pesticides such as neonicotinoids, which are known to be harmful to bees, could not account for the sheer breadth of bumble bee population declines. …

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