Navigation Links
Wild bees and the flowers they pollinate are disappearing together

The diversity of bees and of the flowers they pollinate, has declined significantly in Britain and the Netherlands over the last 25 years according to research led by the University of Leeds and published in Science this Friday (21 July 2006). The paper is the first evidence of a widespread decline in bee diversity.

Concerns have been raised for years about the loss of pollination services, but until recently most of the evidence has been restricted to a few key species or a few focal sites. To test for more general declines, an international team of researchers from three UK universities (Leeds, Reading and York) and from the Netherlands and Germany compiled biodiversity records for 100s of sites, and found that bee diversity fell in almost 80% of them. Many bee species are declining or have become extinct in the UK [for detailed examples, see the attached case studies].

Lead author, Dr Koos Biesmeijer from the University of Leeds said: "We were shocked by decline in plants as well as bees. If this pattern is replicated elsewhere, the 'pollinator services' we take for granted could be at risk. And with it the future for the plants we enjoy in our countryside."

Pollinators are essential for the reproduction of many wild flowers and crops. Co-author Simon Potts (of the University of Reading) said: "The economic value of pollination worldwide is thought to be between £20 and 50 billion each year."

The team examined pollinator and plant data, collected by professional and volunteer researchers and naturalists in Britain and the Netherlands, comparing records from before and after 1980. The results showed bee diversity had declined consistently in both countries, whereas the diversity of hoverflies (another group of pollinating insects) stayed roughly constant in Britain, but increased in the Netherlands.

Loss of bee diversity in itself might not be too worrying, so long as other surviving insect pollinators are similar, a nd capable of pollinating the same flower species. However, this is not the case. The research found for both bees and hoverflies, the "winners" and "losers" were consistently different; insects which pollinate a limited range of flower species or which have specialised habitat needs were most often lost. Overall, a small number of common generalist pollinators are replacing a larger number of rarer specialist species.

Stuart Roberts from the University of Reading pointed out: "In Britain, pollinator species that were relatively rare in the past have tended to become rarer still, while the commoner species have become even more plentiful. Even in insects, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer."

There have been parallel shifts in the plant world, with the plants that depend on pollination by bees disappearing too.

Dr Bill Kunin, coordinator of the project at the University of Leeds explained: "We looked at plant changes as an afterthought, and were surprised to see how strong the trends were. When we contacted our Dutch colleagues, we found out that they had begun spotting similar shifts in their wildflowers as well."

In Britain, where bee diversity has fallen and hoverflies have at best held steady, there have been declines in 70% of the wildflowers that require insects for pollination. However, wind-pollinated or self-pollinating plants have held constant or increased.

The pattern is slightly different in the Netherlands, where bees have declined on average but hoverfly diversity has increased. In that country there has been a decline in plants that specifically require bees for pollination, but not in plants that can make use of other insect pollinators. Thus the plant declines closely mirror those of the pollinators.

This difference between the countries suggests the declines in pollinators and plants are causally linked. Researcher Dr Ralf Ohlemüller from the University of York explained: " The parallel declines of wildflowers and their pollinators seem too strong to be a coincidence."

The research can't tell us whether the bee declines are causing the plant declines, or vice versa, or indeed whether the two are locked in a vicious cycle in which each is affecting the other. It's also not clear as of yet what the ultimate causes of the declines are, although land use change, agricultural chemicals and climate change may be important factors. The researchers hope to clarify these issues with follow-up studies.

Dr Biesmeijer said: "Whatever the cause, the study provides a worrying suggestion that declines in some species may trigger a cascade of local extinctions amongst other associated species."

The research may not yet prove a global decline in pollination, but in two countries at least there is strong evidence that both wild pollinators and the wildflowers that they visit are in serious trouble.


'"/>

Source:University of Leeds


Related biology news :

1. Bumblebees copy one another when contending with unfamiliar flowers
2. AIDS drug from sunflowers
3. Genetic snooze button governs timing of spring flowers
4. How did bilaterally symmetric flowers evolve from radially symmetric ones?
5. Himalayan forests disappearing
6. Over a century after disappearing, wild elk return to Ontario
7. Tundra disappearing at rapid rate
8. Tandem transcripts team together
9. MIT device draws cells close -- but not too close -- together
10. New molecular pathway could reveal how cells stick together
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:6/1/2016)... YORK , June 1, 2016 ... Technology in Election Administration and Criminal Identification to Boost ... to a recently released TechSci Research report, " Global ... By Region, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 - 2021", ... 24.8 billion by 2021, on account of growing security ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... , May 12, 2016 WearablesResearch.com , ... published the overview results from the Q1 wave of ... recent wave was consumers, receptivity to a program where ... with a health insurance company. "We were ... share," says Michael LaColla , CEO of Troubadour ...
(Date:4/28/2016)... First quarter 2016:   , Revenues amounted ... quarter of 2015 The gross margin was 49% (27) ... the operating margin was 40% (-13) Earnings per share ... operations was SEK 249.9 M (21.2) , Outlook   ... M. The operating margin for 2016 is estimated to ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... Epic Sciences unveiled a liquid biopsy ... PARP inhibitors by targeting homologous recombination deficiency (HRD) ... test has already been incorporated into numerous clinical ... Over 230 clinical trials are investigating ... PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK and WEE-1. Drugs targeting ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... , ... Researchers at the Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona combed medical ... mesothelioma. Their findings are the subject of a new article on the Surviving Mesothelioma ... in the blood, lung fluid or tissue of mesothelioma patients that can help point ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... UAS LifeSciences, ... launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, which ... to add Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This list includes such ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - FACIT ... Ontario biotechnology company, Propellon Therapeutics ... development and commercialization of a portfolio of first-in-class ... Epigenetic targets such as WDR5 represent an exciting ... significantly in precision medicine for cancer patients. Substantial ...
Breaking Biology Technology: