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Climate Change is Destroying Bee Habitat and Shrinking Bumblee Populations

First Posted: Jul 09, 2015 06:03 PM EDT

Climate change is causing bumblebees to decline in force. Now, scientists have conducted the most comprehensive study to date of the impacts of climate change on critical pollinators.

In this latest study, the researchers examined more than 420,000 historical and current records of many species of bumblebees. This revealed that the habitat range of bumblebees is shrinking.

"Bumblebees pollinate many plants that provide food for humans and wildlife," said Leif Richardson, one of the researchers, in a news release. "If we don't stop the decline in the abundance of bumblebees, we may well face higher food prices, diminished varieties and other troubles."

The new study shows that the culprit for bee decline isn't necessarily pesticides or land use changes. Instead, range compression is to blame. This shrink is largely due to warming temperatures and climate change. The scientists also found that bumblebees are shifting to areas of habitat and higher elevation due to climate change.

Over 100 years, bumblebees have lost about 185 miles from the southern edge of their range in both Europe and North America. The scale and pace of these habitat losses, though, are unprecedented.

"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 Jeremy Kerr, one of the researchers.

The findings reveal that something needs to be done in term of protecting insect habitat. The study also shows that climate change may be more of a problem even than insecticides. This is especially important not only for the future of bees, but also for the future of our crops.

The findings are published in the journal Science.

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