Bombus impatiens (the Common Eastern Bumble Bee), Credit: Antoine Morin

Why Bumble Bees Are Going Extinct in Time of “Climate Chaos”

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University of Ottawa researchers develop technique to predict impact of climate change on species extinction risk

When you were young, were you the type of child who would scour open fields looking for bumble bees? Today, it is much harder for kids to spot them, since bumble bees are drastically declining in North America and in Europe.

A new study from the University of Ottawa found that in the course of a single human generation, the likelihood of a bumble bee population surviving in a given place has declined by an average of over 30%.

Peter Soroye, a PhD student in the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa, Jeremy Kerr, professor at the University of Ottawa and head of the lab group Peter is in, along with Tim Newbold, research fellow at UCL (University College London), linked the alarming idea of ‘’climate chaos’’ to extinctions, and showed that those extinctions began decades ago.

“We’ve known for a while that climate change is related to the growing extinction risk that animals are facing around the world,” first author Peter Soroye explained. “In this paper, we offer an answer to the critical questions of how and why that is. We find that species extinctions across two continents are caused by hotter and more frequent extremes in temperatures.”

 

“We have now entered the world’s sixth mass extinction event, the biggest and most rapid global biodiversity crisis since a meteor ended the age of the dinosaurs.” – Peter Soroye

Massive decline of the most important pollinators on Earth

“Bumble bees are the best pollinators we have in wild landscapes and the most effective pollinators for crops like tomato, squash, and berries,” Peter Soroye observed. “Our results show that we face a future with many less bumble bees and much less diversity, both in the outdoors and on our plates.”

The researchers discovered that bumble bees are disappearing at rates “consistent with a mass extinction.”

“If declines continue at this pace, many of these species could vanish forever within a few decades,” Peter Soroye warned.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

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