Almost a quarter of European bumblebee species are threatened with extinction, largely because of climate change and intensive farming, the International Union for Conservation of Nature warned on Wednesday.
In a European Union-funded study of all 68 bumblebee species found in Europe, the environmental group found that 24 per cent were on the verge of disappearing. The research also found that 46 per cent had a declining population, including those at risk of extinction, while 29 per cent were stable, 13 per cent were increasing in number and the status of the remainder was unknown.
Like the collapse in numbers of other bee species, the loss of bumblebees is a threat to humans because they play a crucial role in pollinating plants, and are thus a key link in the food chain. Of the five most important pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species, the IUCN said.
The main threat to bumblebees are climate change, the intensification of farming and changes in the use of agricultural land, the IUCN said. It also cited pollution from agricultural waste and loss of habitat due to urban development.
“We are very concerned with these findings. Such a high proportion of threatened bumblebees can have serious implications for our food production,” said Ana Nieto, the IUCN’s European biodiversity officer, who coordinated the study. “Protecting bumblebee species and habitats, restoring degraded ecosystems and promoting biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices will be essential to reverse the negative trends in European bumblebee populations.”
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