The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
First-Ever National Wild Bee Map Shows Major Decline in Crucial Agricultural Regions
A team of researchers at the University of Vermont (UVM) created the first national study, which mapped wild bee populations. Their findings, which were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirm that native pollinators are in major decline in crucial agricultural regions of the U.S. They estimate that between 2008 and 2013, wild bee abundance declined in 23 percent of the contiguous U.S.
"If losses of these crucial pollinators continue, the new nationwide assessment indicates that farmers will face increasing costs—and that the problem may even destabilize the nation's crop production," the researchers said.
The study found that 39 percent of U.S. croplands that depend on pollinators face a "threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a falling supply of wild bees." They propose setting aside 7 million acres of land for pollinators over the next five years.
They identified 139 counties where this "mismatch" is most striking. These counties included agricultural regions of California such as the Central Valley, Pacific Northwest, upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas and the southern Mississippi River valley. Crops such as pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries are most at risk because they are most dependent on pollination.
“Until this study, we didn’t have a national mapped picture about the status of wild bees and their impacts on pollination,” Koh, a researcher at UVM’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, said—even though each year more than $3 billion of the U.S. agricultural economy depends on the pollination services of native pollinators like wild bees.
The researchers cite "numerous threats" to wild bees, including pesticide use, climate change, disease and habitat loss.
They also highlight how the conversion of bee habitat into cropland is devastating wild bee's numbers. The study identified 11 key states, where the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years—replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations. “These results reinforce recent evidence that increased demand for corn in biofuel production has intensified threats to natural habitats in corn-growing regions,” the study noted.
It's well known that both wild and commercial bee populations are in serious danger. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's annual report found that the U.S. honeybee population plummeted by more than 40 percent within the last year. A growing body of evidence has linked a class of pesticides—neonicotinoids—to the massive bee die-offs.
In May, the White House Pollinator Health Task Force announced new steps to promote pollinator health and called for a national assessment of wild pollinators and their habitats. While nonprofits, such as Food & Water Watch, lauded the goals of the task force, they criticized Obama for failing to take "dangerous pesticides off the market."
"It's clear that pollinators are in trouble," said Taylor Ricketts, the senior author of the study and director of UVM's Gund Institute. "But what's been less clear is where they are in the most trouble—and where their decline will have the most consequence for farms and food."
"Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect," Ricketts said. "If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food."
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
By Kristin Ohlson
From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.
Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.
By Hans Nicholas Jong
Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.
It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."