Following Obama’s call for pollinator assessment, first-ever national bee map shows much farmland at risk
The first national study to map U.S. wild bees suggests they’re disappearing in many of the country’s most important farmlands — including California’s Central Valley, the Midwest’s corn belt and the Mississippi River valley.
If losses of these crucial pollinators continue, the new nationwide assessment indicates that farmers will face increasing costs — and that the problem may even destabilize the nation’s crop production.
The findings were published Dec. 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Rising demand, falling supply
The research team, led by Insu Koh at the University of Vermont, estimates that wild bee abundance between 2008 and 2013 declined in 23 percent of the contiguous U.S. The study also shows that 39 percent of U.S. croplands that depend on pollinators — from apple orchards to pumpkin patches — face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees.
In June of 2014, the White House issued a presidential memorandum warning that “over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies.” The memo noted the multi-billion dollar contribution of pollinators to the U.S. economy — and called for a national assessment of wild pollinators and their habitats.
“Until this study, we didn’t have a national mapped picture about the status of wild bees and their impacts on pollination,” says Koh, a researcher at UVM’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics — even though each year more than $3 billion of the U.S. agricultural economy depends on the pollination services of native pollinators like wild bees.
The report that followed the White House memo called for seven million acres of land to be protected as pollinator habitat over the next five years. “It’s clear that pollinators are in trouble,” says Taylor Ricketts, the senior author on the new study and director of UVM’s Gund Institute. “But what’s been less clear is where they are in the most trouble — and where their decline will have the most consequence for farms and food.”
“Now we have a map of the hotspots,” adds Koh. “It’s the first spatial portrait of pollinator status and impacts in the U.S.,” — and a tool that the researchers hope will help protect wild bees and pinpoint habitat restoration efforts.
The new study identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas, and the southern Mississippi River valley that have the most worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand. These counties tend to be places that grow specialty crops — like almonds, blueberries and apples — that are highly dependent on pollinators. Or they are counties that grow less dependent crops — like soybeans, canola and cotton — in very large quantities.
Of particular concern, the study shows that some of the crops most dependent on pollinators — including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries — have the strongest pollination mismatch, with a simultaneous drop in wild bee supply and increase in pollination demand. “These are the crops most likely to run into pollination trouble,” says Taylor Ricketts, “whether that’s increased costs for managed pollinators, or even destabilized yields.”
Pesticides, climate change, and diseases threaten wild bees — but the new study also shows that their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland. In 11 key states where the new study shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years — replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations. “These results reinforce recent evidence that increased demand for corn in biofuel production has intensified threats to natural habitats in corn-growing regions,” the new study notes.
“By highlighting regions with loss of habitat for wild bees, government agencies and private organizations can focus their efforts at the national, regional, and state scales to support these important pollinators for more sustainable agricultural and natural landscapes,” says Michigan State University’s Rufus Isaacs, one of the co-authors on the study and leader of the Integrated Crop Pollination Project, a USDA-funded effort that supported the new research.
Over the last decade, honeybee keepers have lost many colonies and have struggled to keep up with rising demand for commercial pollination services, pushing up costs for farmers. “When sufficient habitat exists, wild bees are already contributing the majority of pollination for some crops. Even around managed pollinators, wild bees complement pollination in ways that can increase crop yields,” says Neal Williams, a co-author on the study from the University of California, Davis.
“Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone,” says Taylor Ricketts, Gund Professor in UVM’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. “Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect. If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food.”
Making the maps
The team of seven researchers — from UVM, Franklin and Marshall College, University of California at Davis, and Michigan State University — created the new maps by first identifying 45 land-use types from two federal land databases, including both croplands and natural habitats. Then they gathered detailed input from 14 experts on bee ecology about each type of land — and how suitable it was for providing wild bees with nesting and food resources.
Averaging the experts’ input and levels of certainty, the scientists built a bee habitat model that predicts the relative abundance of wild bees for every area of the contiguous United States, based on their quality for nesting and feeding from flowers. Finally, the team checked and validated their model against bee collections and field observations in many actual landscapes.
The Latest on: Wild bee decline
[google_news title=”” keyword=”Wild bee decline” num_posts=”10″ blurb_length=”0″ show_thumb=”left”]
via Google News
The Latest on: Wild bee decline
- The far-reaching consequences of humans meddling with natureon November 22, 2022 at 12:30 pm
That was the beginning of a far-reaching chain reaction. As vulture populations crashed, cow carcasses started to pile up, and the numbers of rats and wild dogs surged. Dogs became the main scavengers ...
- What happens when humans meddle with nature?on November 21, 2022 at 10:02 pm
Seven ways in which our destruction of the natural world has led to deadly outcomes ...
- Wild Things: Everything a birdwatcher needs in just one bookon November 20, 2022 at 10:25 am
Wild Things: My 100th column... and the frustrations remain The latest UK Red List of endangered birds has increased by 11 since its previous update and now stands at 70 out of 245 regularly occurring ...
- Study suggests shortened lifespans for beeson November 16, 2022 at 10:39 pm
Captive means they were kept by people, and not completely free in the wild. Scientists have ... could be affecting the decline in lifespan Until now, studies have focused on environmental factors ...
- Vanishing beeson November 16, 2022 at 3:35 am
we have seen our bees decline since 2006. We average 30% or more and U.S. losses now average 50% per year. What business can be sustained with those kinds of losses? We are still not sure why so ...
- A bug's life: Weymouth goes wild to help local wildlifeon November 15, 2022 at 12:59 pm
With UK wildlife in decline, this puts pollinators such as bees, butterflies and other insects at risk. These pollinators are essential to every ecosystem to ensure plants can reproduce and grow. As ...
- Many Vermont bee species in urgent need of conservation, study findson November 15, 2022 at 11:34 am
Bees inhabiting your backyard could be on the decline according to the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. The center has released a report on Vermont’s wild bees after about three years of surveying. The ...
- Lifespan of honeybees halved over the last 50 yearson November 15, 2022 at 8:48 am
A host of celebrities have taken up beekeeping, including Scarlett Johansson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Morgan Freeman. The post Lifespan of honeybees halved over the last 50 years appeared first on ...
- Honey Bee Life Spans Are 50% Shorter Today Than They Were 50 Years Agoon November 15, 2022 at 1:38 am
Honey bees are living half as long today when compared to their lifespans in the 1970s, causing increased colony loss and reduced honey production.
- BEE Protectiveon November 14, 2022 at 4:00 pm
Economic Value of Commercial Beekeeping: The dramatic decline of honey bees also has a significant ... Protecting Honeybees and Wild Pollinators: Widening the scope from honey bees, this pamphlet ...
via Bing News