Study links bee declines to climate change

Study links bee declines to climate change
© Getty Images

The recent rapid declines in bumblebee populations in North America and Europe are linked strongly to climate change, researchers found.

The scientists behind the study are calling it the most comprehensive look yet at the relationship between bee populations and climate change. It was published Thursday in the journal Science.


Researchers at Canadian and American universities said that bumblebee populations are shrinking from the south and are not gaining the same area to the north, unlike what other smaller-scale research has concluded.

“Pollinators are vital for food security and our economy, and widespread losses due to climate change will diminish both,” Jeremy Kerr, the lead researcher and a biology professor at the University of Ottawa, said in a statement.

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

Bees have lost about 300 kilometers, or 186 miles, of their range from the south, Kerr said.

“The scale and pace of these losses are unprecedented,” he continued.

Leif Richardson, a University of Vermont scientist who worked on the project, said it should add to the urgency of fighting climate change.

“If we don’t stop the decline in the abundance of bumblebees, we may well face higher food prices, diminished varieties, and other troubles,” he said in a statement.