Saving British bumblebees needs a range of habitats - Natural History Museum

The UK has two dozen species of bumblebee, all of which are being affected by our impact on the environment.

Improvements can be made, but not all species can be saved in the same way. A new report lays out how we can prioritise the best selection of habitats to give these pollinators a boost.

Bumblebees need a wide variety of habitats if they are to recover from populations declines across the UK.

A study from the British Ecological Society found that no one habitat in the country will help all bumblebee species, including several threatened ones, to thrive. The preservation of patches of urban, rural and agricultural areas is vital to their conservation.

Lead author Dr Penelope Whitehorn says, 'Our results suggest that reversing the loss of semi-natural areas such as wetlands may be the single most generally effective action for bumblebee conservation, while improving habitats in urban and arable areas could benefit certain rare species. As one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, it's really important that we better protect our native species and habitats in the UK.'

The scientists published their research in the Journal of Applied Ecology

What's happening to the UK's bumblebees?

The UK supports around 10% of the world's species of bumblebee. The 24 species play a vital role in pollinating agricultural crops and other plants worth hundreds of millions of pounds and help ensure food security.

As early as the 1950s, scientists became aware that bumblebee populations in the UK were in decline. Three of the UK's native bumblebees have become extinct, with species maps drawn up in the 1980s revealing the existence of a 'central impoverished region' spanning from Lincolnshire to Somerset where species diversity dropped by around a third since the 1960s.

While the exact reason of bumblebee decline remains uncertain even to this day, a number of key factors are known to have an impact.

Rising temperatures due to climate change are one important factor. The increasing number of unusually hot days is increasing local extinction rates for bumblebees across Europe and North America, while forcing survivors to move to stay within their preferred climate conditions.

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Posted On: 25/05/2022

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