Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

First-Ever National Wild Bee Map Shows Major Decline in Crucial Agricultural Regions

Food
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.

Wild bee populations are in serious decline across the U.S. Photo credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

"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.

Researchers identified 139 counties that are especially at risk for pollinator decline. Photo credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

“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

Europe’s Dirty Little Secret: Moroccan Slaves and a ‘Sea of Plastic’

The Fraudulent Science at COP21 Exposed

Michael Pollan: It’s Time to Put Carbon Back Into the Soil

AP Investigation: Supermarkets Selling Shrimp Peeled by Slaves

Coast Guard members work to clean an oil spill impacting Delaware beaches. U.S. Coast Guard District 5

Environmental officials and members of the U.S. Coast Guard are racing to clean up a mysterious oil spill that has spread to 11 miles of Delaware coastline.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

What happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years? Halfpoint / Getty Images

By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie

Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?

Read More Show Less

Trending

Plain Naturals offers a wide variety of CBD products including oils, creams and gummies.

Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.

Read More Show Less
Donald Trump and Joe Biden arrive onstage for the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 22, 2020. JIM WATSON / AFP via Getty Images

Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.

Read More Show Less
What will happen to all these batteries once they wear out? Ronny Hartmann / AFP / Getty Images

By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan

As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch