Sunday, 30 March 2014

Bees and the crops they pollinate are at risk from climate change, IPCC report to warn

Climate change will exacerbate the risk of extinction for bees and other pollinating insects already under threat from pesticides and habitat loss, experts say
By Emily Gosden

7:00AM GMT 29 Mar 2014

Bees essential to pollinate British crops face increased risk of extinction because of climate change, a major UN report is expected to warn.

Changes to habitats and to behaviour of different species as a result of warmer weather will exacerbate the danger to bee species already facing numerous other threats, according to scientists.

Some species could face extinction while declining numbers would harm harvests of British crops such as apples, raising fears from businesses such as cider-makers that their livelihoods could be at risk.

Bees pollinate more than £1 billion worth of crops in the UK each year including fruits and vegetables such as carrots, cabbages, apples and pears.

In a vast and wide-ranging report on the likely global impacts of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to warn that rising global temperatures are having severe negative impacts on bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects and could result in more species extinctions.

Leaked draft copies of the report say: “Climate change, after land-use changes, can be regarded as the second most relevant factor responsible for the decline of pollinators.”

It cites research by scientist Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Reading University.

Professor Potts told the Telegraph bees faced two major threats as a result of climate change: habitats moving, and changing seasonal behaviour of different species.

“Under climate change you would expect habitats that bees and pollinators use will shift – but the bees may or may not be able to move; there may be no connection between the habitat they have now and the new area,” he said.

As a result of climate change, bees were also “emerging earlier and earlier” in the year.

“Both the bees and flowering plants are shifting because of climate but, on average, the UK flowers are getting earlier by 4 or 5 days each decade whereas the bees we have looked at are becoming earlier by 7-10 days per decade. So we are worried that bees are starting their activity before any of their flowing plants are available.”

He said: “There is definitely an increased risk of extinction. If these things are already vulnerable and climate is increasingly putting pressure on them, it is going to tip them over the edge so we will get local extinctions.”

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