Climate change driving bumblebee declines

Bumblebees like this common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) are facing declines due to climate change. ©Antoine Morin

The likelihood of bumblebee populations surviving in a given place has declined by more than 30%, according to new research, and researchers point to climate change as the prime reason. “We’ve known for a while that climate change is related to the growing extinction risk that animals are facing around the world,” said lead author of the study Peter Soroye. “In this paper, we offer an answer to the critical questions of how and why that is. We find that species extinctions across two continents are caused by hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures.” The team looked at how climate change increases the frequency of events like heatwaves and droughts, which can be harmful to wildlife. They used data on 66 bumblebee species across North America and Europe collected from 1900 to 2015. They determined how bumblebee populations were decreasing in areas where temperatures have gotten hotter. Then, they were able to predict changes for individual species and for populations of bumblebees. “If declines continue at this pace, many of these species could vanish forever within a few decades,” Soroye said.

Read the study in Science.