by Staff Writers
Burlington VT (SPX) Feb 22, 2017
The first-ever study to map U.S. wild bees suggests they are disappearing in the country's most important farmlands - from California's Central Valley to the Midwest's corn belt and the Mississippi River valley.
If wild bee declines continue, it could hurt U.S. crop production and farmers' costs, said Taylor Ricketts, a conservation ecologist at the University of Vermont, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy on Feb. 19.
"This study provides the first national picture of wild bees and their impacts on pollination," said Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, noting that each year $3 billion of the U.S. economy depends on pollination from native pollinators like wild bees.
At AAAS, Ricketts briefed scholars, policy makers, and journalists on how the national bee map, first published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in late 2015, can help to protect wild bees and pinpoint habitat restoration efforts.
At the event, Ricketts also introduced a new mobile app that he is co-developing to help farmers upgrade their farms to better support wild bees.
"Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect," said Ricketts, Gund Professor in UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. "If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food."
These counties tend to be places that grow specialty crops - like almonds, blueberries and apples - that are highly dependent on pollinators. Or they are counties that grow less dependent crops - like soybeans, canola and cotton - in very large quantities.
Of particular concern, some crops most dependent on pollinators - including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries - appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch, growing in areas with dropping wild bee supply and increasing in pollination demand.
Globally, more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables.
Pesticides, climate change and diseases threaten wild bees - but their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland, the study suggests. In 11 key states where the map shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years - replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations.
Rising Demand, Falling Supply
"Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone," said Insu Koh, a UVM postdoctoral researcher who co-hosted the AAAS panel and led the study.
"When sufficient habitat exists, wild bees are already contributing the majority of pollination for some crops," Koh adds. "And even around managed pollinators, wild bees complement pollination in ways that can increase crop yields."
Making The Maps
The scientists built a bee habitat model that predicts the relative abundance of wild bees for every area of the contiguous United States, based on their quality for nesting and feeding from flowers. Finally, the team checked and validated their model against bee collections and field observations in many actual landscapes.
"The good news about bees," said Ricketts, "is now that we know where to focus conservation efforts, paired with all we know about what bees need, habitat-wise, there is hope for preserving wild bees."
Konstanz, Germany (SPX) Feb 17, 2017
"It had remained unclear whether or not the accumulation of alien species has already reached a point of slow-down", says Dr Hanno Seebens from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F) in Frankfurt, Germany. The first author of the study has an answer now: "For all groups of organisms on all continents, the number of alien species has increased continuously during t ... read more
University of Vermont
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology
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