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Climate Change 'Crushing Bumblebees in a Vise': Study

Unlike other species, bumblebees aren't expanding their range north; have experienced 'unprecedented' range loss

A black-tailed bumblebee.  "Pollinators are vital for food security and our economy, and widespread losses of pollinators due to climate change will diminish both," said Jeremy Kerr, lead author of the new study. (Photo:  David A. Hofmann/flickr/cc)

Yet another reason to take urgent action on the climate crisis: a new study has found that the warming planet is behind shrinking bumblebee range—and their decline could cause widespread impacts.

The reason, according to the team of scientists, who looked at over 100 years of records from North America and Europe, is that while other species are shifting their habitats further north as temperatures climb, bumblebees aren't.

Lead author Jeremy Kerr, professor and University Research Chair in Macroecology and Conservation Biology at the University of Ottawa, puts it like this: "Picture a vise. Now picture the bumblebee habitat in the middle of the vise."

"As the climate warms, bumblebee species are being crushed as the climate vise compresses their geographical ranges. The result is widespread, rapid declines of pollinators across continents; effects that are not due to pesticide use or habitat loss. It looks like it's just too hot," he stated.

The scientists estimate the range loss as 185 miles. Kerr said, "The scale and pace of these losses are unprecedented."


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The loss of pollinators, already under threat from land use changes and pesticide use, will be felt by humans as well as ecosystems.

As Kerr explained in a statement, "Pollinators are vital for food security and our economy, and widespread losses of pollinators due to climate change will diminish both."

And this scenario should be a call for action, he said.

"We need to figure out how we can improve the outlook for pollinators at continental scales, but the most important thing we can do is begin to take serious action to reduce the rate of climate change," he said.

The study was published Friday in Science.

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